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Full text of "Thirty years' view : or, A history of the working of the American government for thirty years, from 1820 to 1850. Chiefly taken from the Congress debates, the private papers of General Jackson, and the speeches of ex-Senator Benton, with his actual view of men and affairs; with historical notes and illustrations, and some notices of eminent deceased contemporaries"

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THIRTY YEARS' VIEW; 

OE, 

A. HISTORY OF THE WORKING OF THE AMERICAN 
GOVERNMENT FOR THIRTY YEARS, 

FROM 1820 TO 1850. 



CHIEFLY TAKEN 



FROM THE CONGRESS DEBATES, THE PRIVATE PAPERS OF GENERAL JACKSON, 

AND THE SPEECHES OF EX-SENATOR BENTON, WITH HIS 

ACTUAL VIEW OF MEN AND AFFAIRS : 



HISTORICAL NOTES AND ILLUSTRATIONS, AND SOME NOTICES OF EMINENT 
DECEASED COTEMPORARIES. 



BY A SENATOR OF THIRTY YEARS, 



IN TWO VOLUMES. 
VOL. II. 



NEW YORK: 
D. APPLETON AND COMPANY, 

1, 3, AND 5 BOND STKEET. 
LONDON: 16 LITTLE BRITAIN. 

1883. 



33% 



V.-2, 



Rnbeml according to act of Congress, in the year 185C, vy 
D. APPLETON AND COMPANY, 

in lie Ckik's Office of the District Court of the United States for the 
Southern District of New York, 



CONTENTS OF VOLUME II. 



CHAP. PAGE 

I. Inauguration of Mr. Van Buren . 7 

II. Financial and Monetary Crisis General Sus 

pension of Specie Payments by the Banks 9 

III. Preparation for the Distress and Suspen 

sion 11 

IV. Progress of the Distress, and Preliminaries 

for the Suspension 16 

V. Actual Suspension of the Banks Propaga 

tion of the Alarm 20 

VI. Transmigration of the Bank of the United 
States from a Federal to a State Institu 
tion 23 

VII. Effects of the Suspension General Derange 
ment of Business Suppression and Ridi- 
cule of the Specie Currency Submission 
of the People Call of Congress . . 26 

VIII. Extra Session Message, and Recommenda- 

tions 28 

IX. Attacks on the Message Treasury Notes 32 
X. Retention of the Fourth Deposit Instalment 36 
XI. Independent Treasury and Hard Money Pay 
ments . 39 

XII. Attempted Resumption of Specie Payments 42 

XIII. Bankrupt Act against Banks .... 43 

XIV. Bankrupt Act for Banks Mr. Benton's 

Speech 45 

XV. Divorce of Bank and State Mr. Benton's 

Speech 56 

XVI. First Regular Session under Mr. Van Bu- 

ren's Administration His Message . 65 
XVII. Pennsylvania Bank of the United States- 
Its Use of the Defunct Notes of the ex 
pired Institution 67 

rVIII. Florida Indian War Its Origin and Con 
duct 70 

XIX. Florida Indian "War Historical Speech of 

Mr. Benton 72 

XX. Resumption of Specie Payments by the New 

York Banks 83 

XXI. Resumption of Specie Pay tnents Historical 

Notices Mr. Benton's Speech Extracts 85 



CHAP. PAQ2 

XXII. Mr. Clay's Resch .tion in Favor of Resum 
ing Banks, and Mr. Benton's Remarks 
upon it 91 

XXIII. Resumption by the Pennsylvania United 

States Bank ; and others which followed 

her lead 94 

XXIV. Proposed Annexation of Texas Mr. Pres 

ton's Motion and Speech Extracts . 04 
XXV. Debate between Mr. Clay and Mr. Cal- 
houn, Personal and Political, and lead 
ing to Expositions and Vindications of 
Public Conduct which belong to His 
tory 97 

XXVI. Debate between Mr. Clay and Mr. Cal- 

houn Mr. Clay's Speech Extracts . 101 

XXVII. Debate between Mr. Clay and Mr. Calhoun 

Mr. Calhoun's Speech Extracts . 103 
XXVIII. Debate between Mr. Clay and Mr. Calhoun 

Rejoinders by each .... 113 

XXIX. Independent Treasury, or, Divorce of 
Bank and State Passed in the Senate 
Lost in the House of Representa 
tives 124 

XXX. Public Lands Graduation of Price Pre 
emption System Taxation when Sold . 123 

XXXI. Specie Basis for Banks One-third of the 
Amount of Liabilities the Lowest Safe 
Proportion Speech of Mr. Benton on 
the Recharter of the District Banks . 128 
XXXII. The North and the South Comparative 
Prosperity Southern Discontent Its 
True Cause 130 

XXXIII. Progress of the Slavery Agitation Mr. Cal 

houn's Approval of the Missouri Compro 
mise 134 

XXXIV. Death of Commodore Rodgers, and Notice 

of his Life and Character .... 144 

XXXV. Anti-duelling Act 148 

XXXVI. Slavery Agitation in the House of Repre 
sentatives, and Retiring of Southern 
Members from the Hall . UW 



CONTENTS OF VOL. II. 



CHAP. PAGE 

XXXVII. Abolitionists Classified by Mr. Clay Ul 
tras Denounced Slavery Agitators 
North and South Equally denounced 
as Dangerous to the Union ... 154 
tXXVIII. Bank of the United States Ecsignation 

of Mr. Biddle Final Suspension . 157 
XXXIX. First Session Twenty-sixth Congress 
Members Organization Political Map 

of the House 158 

XL. First Session of the Twenty-sixth Con 
gress President's Message . . 162 
XLI. Divorce of Bank and State Divorce de 
creed 164 

XLIL Florida Armed Occupation Bill Mr. 

Benton's Speech Extracts . . 167 
XLIII. Assumption of the State Debts . . 171 
XLIV Assumption of the State Debts Mr. Ben- 
ton's Speech Extracts ... 172 
XLV. Death of General Samuel Smith, of Mary 
land ; and Notice of his Life and Char 
acter 176 

XLVI. Salt the Universality of its Supply 
Mystery and Indispensability of its Use 
Tyranny and Impiety of its Taxation 
Speech of Mr. Ber.ton Extracts . 176 

XLVI1. Pairing off 178 

tLVlIL Tax on Bank Notes Mr. Benton's Speech 

Extracts 179 

XLIX. Liberation of Slaves belonging to Ameri 
can Citizens in British Colonial Ports . 182 
L. Eesignation of Senator Hugh Lawson 
White of Tennessee His Death Some 
Notice of his Life and Character . 184 
LI. Death of Ex-Senator Hayne of South Car 
olinaNotice of his Life and Character 186 
LII. Abolition of Specific Duties by the Com 
promise Act of 18S Its Error, and 
Loss to the Eevenue, shown by Expe 
rience 189 

LIII. Eefined Sugar and Bum Drawbacks 

their Abuse under the Compromise 

Act of 1833 Mr. Benton's Speech . 190 

LIV. Fishing Bounties and Allowances, and 

their Abuse Mr. Benton's Speech 

Extracts 194 

LV. Expenditures of the Government . 198 
LVI. Expenses of the Government, Compara 
tive and Progressive, and Separated 
from Extraordinaries .... 200 
LV1I. Death of Mr. Justice Barbour of the Su 
preme Court, and Appointment of Pe 
ter V. Daniel, Esq., in his place . 202 
LVIII. Presidential Election .... 
LIX. Conclusion of Mr. Van Buron's Adminis 
tration 207 

LX. Inauguration of President Harrison His 

Cabinet Call of Congress and Death 

LXI. Accession of the Vice-President to tho 

Presidency 211 

LXII. Twenty -seventh Congress First Session 
List of Members, and Organization of 

the House 213 

LXIII. First Message of Mr. Tyler to Congress, 

and Mr. Clay's Programme of Business 215 
LXIV. Eepeal of the Independent Treasury Act 219 
LXV. Eepeal of the Independent Treasury Act 
Mr. Benton's Speech 



HAP. PAQ> 

LXVI. The Bankrupt Act "What it was and 

how it was Passed .... 229 
LXVII. Bankrupt Bill Mr. Benton's Speech- 
Extracts 234 

LXVIII. Distribution of the Public Land Eeve 
nue, and Assumption of the State 

Debts 240 

LXIX. Institution of the Hour Eule in Debate 

in the House of Eeprcsentatives Its 

Attempt, and Eepqlse in the Senate 247 

LXX. Bill for the Belief of Mrs. Harrison, 

Widow of the late President of the 

United States 257 

LXXI. Mrs. Harrison's Bill Speech of Mr. 

Benton Extracts .... 262 
LXXII. Abuse of the Naval Pension System- 
Vain attempt to Correct it . . 265 
LXXIII. Home Squadron, and Aid to Private 

Steam Lines 271 

LXXIV. Eecharter of the District Banks Mr. 

Benton's Speech Extracts . . 273 
LXXV. Eevolt in Canada Border Sympathy- 
Firmness of Mr. Van Buren Public 
Peace Endangered and Preserved 
CaseofMcLeod .... 276 
LXXVI. Destruction of the Caroline Arrest and 
Trial of McLeod Mr. Benton's 
Speech Extracts .... 291 
LXXVI1. Refusal of the House to al!ow Eecess 

Committees 304 

LXXVIII. Eeduction of the Expense of Foreign 

Missions by reducing the Number . 805 
LXXIX. Infringement of the Tariff Compromise 
Act of 1833 Correction of Abuses in 

Drawbacks 307 

LXXX. National Bank First Bill . . .317 
LXXXI. Second Fiscal Agent Bill Presented 
Passed Disapproved by the Presi 
dent 831 

LXXXII. Secret History of tho Second Bill for a 
Fiscal Agent, called Fiscal Corpora 
tionIts Origin with Mr. Tyler Its 
Progress through Congress under his 
Lead Its Eejection under his Veto 343 
LXXXI11 The Veto Message hissed in tho Senate 

Galleries 850 

LXXXI V. Eesignation of Mr. Tyler's Cabinet . 853 
LXXXV. Eepudiation of Mr. Tyler by the Whig 
Party their Manifesto Counter 
Manifesto by Mr. Caleb Cushing . 857 
LXXXVI. The Danish Sound Dues ... 362 
LXXXVII. Last Notice of the Bank of the United 

States 865 

LXXXVIII. End and Eesults of the Extra Session 872 
LXXXIX. First Annual Message of President Tyler 873 
XC. Third Plan for a Fiscal Agent, called 
Exchequer Board Mr. Benton's 
Speech against it Extracts . . 876 
XCI. The Third Fiscal Agent, entitled a 

Board of Exchequer . . . . 394 
XCII. Attempted Eepeal of the Bankrupt Act 395 
XCIII. Death of Lewis Williams, of North 
Carolina, and Notice of his Life and 

Character 896 

XCIV. The Civil List Expenses the Contin 
gent Expenses of Congress and the 
Eevenue Collect! on Expense . 8W 



CONTENTS OF VOL. II. 



CHAP. 

XCV. Resignation and Valedictory of Mr. Clay . 898 
XCVI. Military Department Progress of its Ex 
pense 404 

XCVTI. Paper Money Payments Attempted by 
the Federal Government Eesisted Mr. 

Ben ton's Speech 106 

XCVIIL Case of the American Brig Creole with 
Slaves for New Orleans, carried by Mu 
tiny into Nassau, and the Slaves Lib 
erated 409 

XCIX. Distress of the Treasury Three Tariff Bills, 
and Two Vetoes End of the Compro 
mise Act 413 

C. Mr. Tyler and the Whig Party Confirmed 

Separation 417 

CL Lord Ashburton's Mission, and the British 

Treaty 420 

CII. British Treaty The Pretermitted Sub 
jectsMr. Benton's Speech Extracts 426 
CIII. British Treaty Northeastern Boundary 
Article Mr. Benton's Speech Ex 
tracts 438 

CIV. British Treaty Northwestern Boundary- 
Mr. Benton's Speech Extracts . . 441 
CV. British Treaty Extradition Article Mr. 

Benton's Speech Extract ... 444 
CVI. British Treaty African Squadron for the 
Suppression of the Slave Trade Mr. 
Benton's Speech Extract ... 449 
CV1I Expense of the Navy Waste of Money- 
Necessity of a Naval Peace Establish 
ment, and of a Naval Policy ... 452 
C VIII Expenses of the Navy Mr. Benton's Speech 

Extracts 456 

CIX Message of the President at the Opening 

of the Eegular Session of 1842~'S . . 460 
CX Repeal of the Bankrupt Act Mr. Benton's 

Speech Extracts 463 

CXI Military Academy and Army Expenses . 466 
CXII Emigration to the Columbia River, and 
Foundation of its Settlement by Ameri 
can Citizens Fremont's First Expedi 
tion 468 

CXIII Lieutenant Fremont's First Expedition- 
Speech, and Motion of Senator Linn . 478 
CXIV. Oregon Colonization Act Mr. Benton's 

Speech 4T!) 

CXV. Navy Pay and Expenses Proposed Reduc 
tion Speech of Mr. Meriwether, of Geor^ 

gia Extracts 482 

CXVI Eulogy on Senator Linn Speeches of Mr. 

Benton and Mr. Crittenden . . . 4S5 
CXVII The Coast Survey Attempt to diminish 
its Expense, and to expedite its Comple 
tion by restoring the Work to Naval and 

Military Officers 487 

CXVIII Death of Commodore Porter, and Notice of 

his Life and Character . ... 491 

CXIX. Refunding of General Jackson's Fine . 409 

CXX. Repeal of the Bankrupt Act Attack of 

Mr. dishing on Mr. Clay Its Rebuke 503 

GXXI, Saval Expenditures and Administration 

Attempts at Reform Abortive . . 507 
CXXII Shinese Mission Mr. Cushing's Appoint 
ment and Negotiation .... 510 
CXXIH The Alleged Mutiny, and the Executions 
(as they were called) on Board the United 
States man-of-war. Somers . 522 



CHAP. 

CXXIV. 



CXXV. 
CXXVI. 



CXXVII. 
CXXVIII. 



CXXIX. 

cxxx. 

CXXXI. 
CXXXII. 
CXXXIII. 
CXXXIV. 

cxxxv. 

CXXXVI. 
CXXX VII. 

CXXXVIII. 

CXX XIX. 

CXL. 

CXLI. 

CXLII. 
CXLIII. 



CXL1V. 
CXLV. 



CXLVI. 



CXLVII. 
dXLVIII. 



CXLIX. 



CL. 
CLI. 



CLII. 



CLIIL 

CLIV. 

CLV. 

CLVI. 



PAG* 

Retirement of Mr. Webster from Mr. 
Tyler's Cabinet 562 

Death of William H. Crawford . . 5C2 

First Session of the Twenty-eighth 
Congress List of Members Organi 
zation of the House of Representatives 568 

Mr. Tyler's Second Annual Message . 56E 

Explosion of the Great Gun on Board 
the Princeton man-of-war the Killed 
and Wounded 567 

Reconstruction of Mr. Tyler's Cabinet . 569 

Death of Senator Porter, of Louisiana 
Eulogium of Mr. Benton . . 669 

Naval Academy, and Naval Policy of 
the United States .... 571 

The Home Squadron Its Inutility and 
Expense "J5 

Professor Morse His Electro-Magnetic 
Telegraph 578 

Fremont's Second Expedition . . 579 

Texas Annexation Secret Origin Bold 
Intrigue for the Presidency . . 581 

Democratic Convention for the Nomi 
nation of Presidential Candidates . 591 

Presidential Democratic National Con 
vention Mr. Calhoun's Refusal to 
Submit his Name to it His Reasons 596 

Annexation of Texas Secret Negotia 
tionPresidential Intrigue Schemes 
of Speculation and Disunion . . 599 

Texas Annexation Treaty First Speech 
of Mr. Benton against it Extracts . 600 

Texas or Disunion Southern Conven 
tionMr. Benton's Speech Extracts 613 

Texas or Disunion Violent Demon 
strations in the South Southern Con 
vention proposed . . . . 616 

Rejection of the Annexation Treaty 
Proposal of Mr. Benton's Plan . . 619 

Oregon Territory Conventions of 1818 
and 1828 Joint Occupation At 
tempted Notice to Terminate it . 624 

Presidential Election . . . .625 

Amendment of the Constitution Elec 
tion of President and Vice-President 
Mr. Benton's Plan ... 62* 

The President and the Senate Want 
of Concord Numerous Rejections of 
Nominations . . . . . 629 
' Mr. Tyler's Last Message to Congress 681 

Legislative Admission of Texas into the 
Union as a State .... 632 

The War with Mexico Its Cause 
Charged on the Conduct of Mr. Cal- 
houn Mr. Benton's Speech . . 689 

Mr. Polk's Inaugural Address Cabinet 649 

Mr. Blair and the Globe superseded as 
the Administration Organ Mr. T. Rit 
chie and the Daily Union substituted 650 

Twenty-ninth Congress List of Mem 
bers First Session Organization of 
the House 655 

Mr. Polk's First Annual Message to 



Death of John Forsyth 
Admission of Florida and Iowa . 
Oregon Treaty Negotiations com 
menced, and broken off . 



657 



66C 



664 



CONTENTS OF VOL. II. 



OIUP. PAGE 

CLVIL Oregon Question Notice to abrogate the 
Article in the Treaty for a Joint Occu 
pationThe President denounced in 
the Senate for a supposed Leaning to 
the Line of Forty-nine .... 662 
OLVIIL Oregon Territorial Government Boun 
daries and History of the Country 
Frazer's Kiver Treaty of Utrecht Mr. 
Benton's Speech Extracts . . 66T 
CLIX. Oregon Joint Occupation Notice author 
ized for terminating it British Govern 
ment offers the Line of 49 Quandary of 
the Administration Device Senate 
Consulted Treaty made and Eatified 673 
CLX. Meeting of the Second Session of the 29th 
Congress President's Message Vigo 
rous Prosecution of the "War Eecom- 
mended Lieutenant-general proposed 

to be created 677 

CLXI. "War with Mexico The "War Declared, 
and an Intrigue for Peace commenced 

the same Day 6T9 

CLXIL Bloodless Conquest of New Mexico How 
it was Done Subsequent Bloody In 
surrection, and its Cause ... 682 
CLXIII. Mexican "War Doniphan's Expedition 
Mr. Benton's Salutatory Address, St. 

Louis, Missouri 684 

CLXIV. Fremont's Third Expedition, and Acqui 
sition of California .... 6SS 
CLXV. Pause in the War Sedentary Tactics 

"Masterly Inactivity" ... 693 
CLXVI. The "Wilmot Proviso Or, Prohibition of 
Slavery in the Territories Its Inutility 

and Mischief 694 

CLXVII. Mr. Calhoun's Slavery Eesolutions, and 
Denial of the Eight of Congress to Pro 
hibit Slavery in a Territory . . 696 
OLXVIII. The Slavery Agitation-DisunionKey 
to Mr. Calhoun's Policy Forcing the 
Issue Mode of Forcing it . . .698 
CLXIX. Death of Silas "Wright, Ex-Senator and 

Ex-Governor of New York . . 700 
CLXX. Thirtieth Congress First Session List of 

Members President's Message . . 702 
CLXXI. Death of Senator Barrow Mr. Benton's 

Eulogium 706 

CLXXII. Death of Mr. Adams 707 

CLXXIII. Downfall of Santa Anna New Govern 
ment in Mexico Peace Negotiations- 
Treaty of Peace 709 

CLXXIV. Oregon Territorial Government Anti- 
Slavery Ordinance of 1787 applied to 
Oregon Territory Missouri Compro 
mise Line of 1820, and the Texas An 
nexation Eenewal of it in 1845, affirmed 711 
CLXXY. Mr. Calhoun's New Dogma on Territorial 
Slavery Self-extension of the Slavery 
Part of the Constitution to Territories 713 
CLXXY I. Court-martial of Lieutenant-colonel Fre 
mont 715 

JLXXVII. Fremont's Fourth Expedition, and Great 
Disaster in the Snows at tho Head of 
the Eio Grande del Norte Subsequent 
Discovery of the Pass he sought . . 719 



CHAP. PAG1 

CLXXVIII. Presidential Election ... 723 
CLXXIX. Last Message of Mr. Polk ... 724 
CLXXX. Financial Working of the Government 

under the Hard Money System 726 

CLXXXI. Coast Survey Belongs to the Navy- 
Converted into a Separate Depart 
mentExpense and Interminabili- 
ty Should be done by the Navy, 
as in Great Britain Mr. Benton's 
Speech Extract .... 726 
CLXXXII. Proposed Extension of the Constitu 
tion of the United States to the Ter 
ritories, with a View to make it car 
ry Slavery into California, Utah and 
New Mexico .... 72 

CLXXXIII. Progress of the Slavery Agitation- 
Meeting of Members from the Slave 
States Inflammatory Address to 
the Southern States ... 733 
CLXXXIV. Inauguration of President Taylor 

His Cabinet 737 

CLXXXV. Death of Ex-President Polk . . 737 
CLXXXVI. Thirty-first Congress First Session- 
List of Members Organization of 

the House 788 

CLXXXVII. First and only Annual Message of 

President Taylor .... 740 
CLXXXVIII. Mr. Clay's Plan of Compromise . . 742 
CLXXXIX. Extension of the Missouri Compro 
mise Line to the Pacific Ocean 
Mr. Davis, of Mississippi, and Mr. 
Clay The Wilmot Proviso . 748 
CXC. Mr. Calhoun's Last Speech Dissolu 
tion of the Union proclaimed un 
less the Constitution was amended, 
and a Dual Executive appointed- 
one President from the Slave States 
and one from the Free States . 744 
CXCI. Death of Mr. Calhoun His Eulogium 

by Senator Butler . . . 747 
CXCII. Mr. Clay's Plan of Slavery Compro 
mise Mr. Benton's Speech Against 

it Extracts 749 

CXCIII. Death of President Taylor . . 7GS 
CXCIV. Inauguration and Cabinet of Mr. Fill- 
more 76? 

CXCV. Eejection of Mr. Clay's Plan of Com- 

promiss 768 

CXCVI. The Admission of the State of Cali 
fornia Protest of Southern Sena 
tors Eemarks upon it by Mr. Ben- 
ton 769 

CXCVIL Fugitive Slaves ; Ordinance of 1787 
The Constitution Act of 1793 Act 

of 1850 773 

CXCVIII. Disunion Movements Southern Press 
at Washington Southern Conven 
tion at Nashville Southern Con 
gress called for by South Carolina 

and Mississippi 780 

OXCIX. The Supreme Court Its Judges, 
Clerk, Attorney-Generals, Eeport- 
ers and Marshals during the Period 
treated of in this Volume . . 757 
CO. Conclusion 781 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



ADMINISTRATION OF MARTIN 7AN BUREN. 



CHAPTER I. 

INAUGURATION OP MR. VAN BUREN. 

MARCH the 4th of this year, Mr. Van Buren 
was inaugurated President of the United States 
with the usual formalities, and conformed to the 
usage of his predecessors in delivering a public 
address on the occasion : a declaration of gen 
eral principles, and an indication of the general 
course of the administration, were the tenor of 
his discourse : and the doctrines of the demo- 
cratic school, as understood at the original for 
mation of parties, were those professed. Close 
observance of the federal constitution as written 
no latitudinarian constructions permitted, or 
doubtful powers assumed faithful adherence to 
all its compromises economy in the adminis 
tration of the government peace, friendship 
and fair dealing with all foreign nations en 
tangling alliances with none- such was his 
political chart : and with the expression of his 
belief that a perseverance in this line of foreign 
policy, with an increased strength, tried valor 
of the people, and exhaustless resources of the 
country, would entitle us to the good will of 
>aations. protect our national respectability, and 
secure us from designed aggression from foreign 
powers. His expressions and views on this head 
deserve to be commemorated, and to be con 
sidered by all those into whose hands the man 
agement of the public affairs may go ; and are, 
therefore, here given in his own words : 

" Our course of foreign policy has been so uni 
form and intelligible, as to constitute a rule of 



executive conduct which leaves little to my dis 
cretion, unless, indeed, I were willing to run coun 
ter to the lights of experience, and the known 
opinions of my constituents. "We sedulously 
cultivate the friendship of all nations, as the con 
dition most compatible with our welfare, and 
the principles of our government. "We decline 
alliances, as adverse to our peace. We desire 
commercial relations on equal terms, being ever 
willing to give a fair equivalent for advantages 
received. We endeavor to conduct our inter 
course with openness and sincerity; promptly 
avowing our objects, and seeking to establish 
that mutual frankness which is as beneficial in 
the dealings of nations as of men. We have no 
disposition, and we disclaim all right, to meddle 
in disputes, whether internal or foreign, that 
may molest other countries ; regarding them, in 
their actual state, as social communities, and pre 
serving a strict neutrality in all their contro 
versies. Well knowing the tried valor of our 
people, and our exhaustless resources, we 
neither anticipate nor fear any designed aggres 
sion ; and, in the consciousness of our own just 
conduct, we feel a security that we shall never 
be called upon to exert our determination, never 
to permit an invasion of our rights, without 
punishment or redress." 

These are sound and encouraging views? 
and in adherence to them, promise to the United 
States a career of peace and prosperity compar 
atively free from the succession of wars which 
have loaded so many nations with debt and 
taxes, filled them with so many pensioners and 
paupers, created so much necessity for perma 
nent fleets and armies ; and placed one half the 
population in the predicament of living upon the 
labor of the other. The stand which the United 
States had acquired among nations by the vindi 
cation of her rights against the greatest powers 



8 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



and the manner in which all unredressed ag 
gressions, and all previous outstanding injuries, 
even of the oldest date, had been settled up and 
compensated under the administration of Presi 
dent Jackson authorized this language from 
Mr. Van Buren ; and the subsequent conduct of 
nations has justified it. Designed aggression, 
within many years, has come from no great 
power : casual disagreements and accidental in- 
iuries admit of arrangement: weak neighbors 
can find no benefit to themselves in wanton ag 
gression, or refusal of redress for accidental 
wrong : isolation (a continent, as it were, to our 
selves) is security against attack ; and our rail 
ways would accumulate rapid destruction upon 
any invader. These advantages, and strict ad 
herence to the rule, to ask only what is right, 
and submit to nothing wrong, will leave us (we 
have reason to believe) free from hostile col 
lision with foreign powers, free from the neces 
sity of keeping up war establishments of army 
and navy in time of peace, with our great re 
sources left in the pockets of the people (always 
the safest and cheapest national treasuries), to 
come forth when public exigencies require them 
and ourselves at liberty to pursue an unexampled 
career of national and individual prosperity. 

One single subject of recently revived occur 
rence in our domestic concerns, and of portentous 
apparition, admitted a departure from the gene 
ralities of an inaugural address, and exacted from 
the new President the notice of a special decla 
ration : it was the subject of slavery an alarm 
ing subject of agitation near twenty years before 
quieted by the Missouri compromise re 
suscitated in 1835, as shown in previous chap 
ters of this View; and apparently taking it: 
place as a permanent and most pestiferous ele 
ment in our presidential elections and federa 
legislation. It had largely mixed with the pres 
idential election of the preceding year : it wa 
expected to mix with ensuing federal legislation 
and its evil effect upon the harmony and stability 
of the Union justified the new President in mak 
ing a special declaration in relation to it, an 
even in declaring beforehand the cases of slavery 
legislation in which he would apply the qualifie 
negative with which the constitution investe 
him over the acts of Congress. Under this sens 
of duty and propriety the inaugural addres 
presented this passage : 
"The last, perhaps the greatest, of the prom 



ent sources of discord and disaster supposed to 
urk in our political condition, was the institu- 
on of domestic slavery. Our forefathers were 
eeply impressed with the delicacy of this sub- 
ect, and they treated it with a forbearance so 
vidently wise, that, in spite of every sinistei 
oreboding, it never, until the present period 
isturbed the tranquillity of our common coun- 
ry. Such a result is sufficient evidence of the 
ustice and the patriotism of their course ; it is 
vidence not to be mistaken, that an adherence 
o it can prevent all embarrassment from this, 
as well as from every other anticipated cause of 
[ifficulty or danger. Have not recent events 
nade it obvious to the slightest reflection, that 
he least deviation rrom this spirit of forbearance 
s injurious to every interest, that of humanity 
ncluded 'I Amidst the violence of excited pas 
sions, this generous and fraternal feeling has 
>een sometimes disregarded ; and, standing as I 
low do before my countrymen in this high place 
)f honor and of trust, I cannot refrain from 
mxiously invoking my fellow-citizens never to 
be deaf to 'its dictates. Perceiving, before my 
election, the deep interest this subject was be 
ginning to excite, I believed it a solemn duty 
ully to make known my sentiments in regard 
;o it ; and now, when every motive for misrep 
resentations have passed away, I trust that the} 
will be candidly weighed and understood. A*. 
[east, they will be my standard of conduct in 
the path before me. I then declared that, if the 
desire of those of my countrymen who were fa 
vorable to my election was gratified, ' I must 
into the presidental chair the inflexible and 
uncompromising opponent of every attempt, on 
the part of Congress, to abolish slavery in the 
District of Columbia, against the wishes of the 
slaveholding States ; and also with a determina 
tion equally decided to resist the slightest inter 
ference with it in the States where it exists.' I 
submitted also to my fellow-citizens, with ful 
ness and frankness, the reasons which led me to 
this determination. The result authorizes me 
to believe that they have been approved, and 
are confided in, by a majority of the people oi 
the United States, including those whom they 
most immediately affect. It now only remains 
to add, that no bill conflicting with these views 
can ever receive my constitutional sanction. 
These opinions have been adopted in the firm 
belief that they are in accordance with the 
spirit that actuated the venerated fathers of the 
republic, and that succeeding experience has 
proved them to be humane, patriotic, expedient, 
honorable and just. If the agitation of this sub 
ject was intended to reach the stability of our 
institutions, enough has occurred to show that 
it has signally failed ; and that in this, as in 
every other instance, the apprehensions of the 
timid and the hopes of the wicked for the de 
struction of our government, are again destined 
to be disappointed." 

The determination here declared to yield the 



ANNO 1837. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



presidential sanction to no bill which proposed 
to interfere with slavery in the States ; or to 
abolish it in the District of Columbia while it 
existed in the adjacent States, met the evil as it 
then presented itself a fear on the part of some 
of the Southern States that their rights of prop 
erty were to be endangered by federal legisla 
tion : and against which danger the veto power 
was now pledged to be opposed. There was no 
other form at that time in which slavery agita 
tion could manifest itself, or place on which it 
could find a point to operate the ordinance of 
1787. and the compromise of 1820, having closed 
up the Territories against it. Danger to slave 
property in the States, either by direct action, 
or indirectly through the District of Columbia, 
were the only points of expressed apprehension ; 
and at these there was not the slightest ground 
for fear. No one in Congress dreamed of inter 
fering with slavery in the States, and the abor 
tion of all the attempts made to abolish it in the 
District, showed the groundlessness of that fear. 
The pledged veto was not a necessity, but a pro 
priety; not necessary, but prudential; not 
railed for by anything in congress, but outside 
of it. In that point of view it was wise and 
prudent. It took from agitation its point of sup 
port its means of acting on the fears and sus 
picions of the timid and credulous : and it gave 
to the country a season of repose and quiet from 
this disturbing question until a new point of 
agitation could be discovered and seized. 

The cabinet remained nearly as under the pre 
vious administration : Mr. Forsyth, Secretary of 
State ; Mr. Woodbury, Secretary of the Treas 
ury; Mr. Poinsett, Secretary at War; Mr. 
Mahlon Dickerson, Secretary of the Navy ; Mr. 
Amos Kendall, Postmaster General ; and Ben- 
iamin F. Butler, Esq. Attorney General. Of all 
these Mr. Poinsett was the only new appoint 
ment. On the bench of the Supreme Court, 
John Catron, Esq. of Tennessee, and John 
McKinley, Esq. of Alabama, were appointed 
Justices ; William Smith, formerly senator in 
Congress from South Carolina, having declined 
the appointment which was filled by Mr. 
McKinley. Mr. Butler soon resigning his place 
of Attorney General, Henry D. Gilpin, Esq. of 
Pennsylvania (after a temporary appointment 
of Felix Grundy, Esq. of Tennessee), became 
the Attorney General during the remainder of 
the administration. 



CHAPTER II. 

FINANCIAL AND MONETARY CRISIS: GENERAL 
SUSPENSION OF SPECIE PAYMENTS BY THE 
BANKS. 

THE nascent administration of the new Presi 
dent was destined to be saluted by a rude shock, 
and at the point most critical to governments 
as well is to individuals that of deranged 
finances and broken-up treasury ; and against 
the dangers of which I had in vain endeavored 
to warn our friends. A general suspension of 
the banks, a depreciated currency, and the in 
solvency of the federal treasury, were at hand. 
Visible signs, and some confidential information, 
portended to me this approaching calamity, and 
my speeches in the Senate were burthened with 
its vaticination. Two parties, inimical to the 
administration, were at work to accomplish it 
politicians and banks ; and well able to succeed, 
because the government money was in the 
hands of the banks, and the federal legislation 
in the hands of the politicians ; and both inter 
ested in the overthrow of the party in power ; 
and the overthrow of the finances the obvious 
means to the accomplishment of the object. 
The public moneys had been withdrawn from 
the custody of the Bank of the United States : 
the want of an independent, or national treas 
ury, of necessity, placed them in the custody of 
the local banks : and the specie order of Presi 
dent Jackson having been rescinded by the Act 
of Congress, the notes of all these banks, and 
of all others in the country, amounting to 
nearly a thousand, became receivable in pay 
ment of public dues. The deposit banks be 
came filled up with the notes of these multitu 
dinous institutions, constituting that surplus, 
the distribution of which had become an en 
grossing care with Congress, and ended with 
effecting the object under the guise of a de 
posit with the States. Irecalled the recollec 
tion of the times of 1818-19, when the treasury 
reports of one year showed a superfluity of 
revenue for which there was no want, and of 
the next a deficit which required to be relieved 
by a loan ; and argued that we must now have 
the same result from the bloat in the paper 
system which we then had. I demanded 
" Are we not at this moment, and from the 



10 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



same cause, realizing the first part the illusive 
and treacherous part of this picture ? and must 
not the other, the sad and real sequel, speedily 
follow ? The day of revulsion must come, and 
its effects must be more or less disastrous j but 
come it must. The present bloat in the paper 
system cannot continue : violent contraction 
must follow enormous expansion : a scene of 
distress and suffering must ensue to come of 
itself out of the present state of things, without 
being stimulated and helped on by our unwise 
legislation." 

Of the act which rescinded the specie order, 
and made the notes of the local banks receiva 
ble in payment of all federal dues, I said : 

" This bill is to be an era in our legislation 
and in our political history. It is to be a point 
on which the view of the future age is to be 
thrown back, and from which future conse 
quences will be traced. I separate myself from 
it : I wash my hands of it : I oppose it. I am 
one of those who promised gold not paper. 
I promised the currency of the constitution, not 
the currency of corporations. I did not join in 
putting down the Bank of the United States to 
put up a wilderness of local banks. I did not 
join in putting down the paper currency of a 
national bank, to put up a national paper cur 
rency of a thousand local banks. I did not 
strike Caesar to make Antony master of Rome." 

The condition of our deposit banks was des 
perate wholly inadequate to the slightest pres 
sure on their vaults in the ordinary course of 
business, much less that of meeting the daily 
government drafts and the approaching deposit 
of near forty millions with the States. The 
necessity of keeping one- third of specie on hand 
for its immediate liabilities, was enforced from 
the example and rule of the Bank of England, 
while many of our deposit banks could show 
but the one-twentieth, the one-thirtieth, the 
one-fortieth, and even the one-fiftieth of specie 
in hand for immediate liabilities in circulation 
and deposits. The sworn evidence of a late 
Governor of the Bank of England (Mr. Horsely 
Palmer), before a parliamentary committee, was 
read, in which he testified that the average pro 
portion of coin and bullion which the bank 
deems it prudent to keep on hand, was at the 
rate of the third of the total amount of all her 
liabilities including deposits as well as issues. 
And this was the proportion which that bank 



deemed it prudent to keep that bank which 
was the largest in the world, situated in the 
moneyed metropolis of Europe, with its list of 
debtors within the circuit of London, supported 
t>y the richest merchants in the world, and 
backed by the British government, which stood 
bier security for fourteen millions sterling, and 
ready with her supply of exchequer bills (the 
interest to be raised to insure sales), at any 
moment of emergency. Tested by the rule of 
the Bank of England, and our deposit banks 
were in the jaws of destruction ; and this so 
Tident to me, that I was amazed that others 
did not see it those of our friends who voted 
with the opponents of the administration in re 
scinding the specie order, and in making the 
deposit with the States. The latter had begun 
to take effect, at the rate of about ten millions 
to the quarter, on the first day of January pre 
ceding Mr. Van Buren's inauguration : a second 
ten millions were to be called for on the first of 
April : and like sums on the first days of the 
two remaining quarters. It was utterly impos 
sible for the banks to stand these drafts ; and, 
having failed in all attempts to wake up our 
friends, who were then in the majority, to a 
sense of the danger which was impending, and 
to arrest their ruinous voting with the oppo 
sition members (which most of them did), I 
determined to address myself to the President 
elect, under the belief that, although he would 
not be able to avert the blow, he might do 
much to soften its force and avert its conse 
quences, when it did come. It was in the 
month of February, while Mr. Van Buren was 
still President of the Senate, that I invited him 
into a committee room for that purpose, and 
stated to him my opinion that we were on tho 
eve of an explosion of the paper system and of 
a general suspension of the banks intending 
to follow up that expression of opinion with the 
exposition of my reasons for thinking so : but 
the interview came to a sudden and unexpected 
termination. Hardly had I expressed my be 
lief of this impending catastrophe, than he spoke 
up, and said, " Your friends think you a little 
exalted in the head on that subject." I said no 
more. I was miffed. We left the room to 
gether, talking on different matters, and I say 
ing to myself, "You will soon feel the thunder 
bolt." But I have since felt that I was too 
hasty, and that I ought to have carried out my 



ANNO 183Y. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



11 



intention of making a full exposition of the 
moneyed affairs of the country. His habitual 
courtesy, from which the expression quoted was 
a most rare departure, and his real regard for 
me, both personal and political (for at that 
time he was pressing me to become a member 
of his cabinet), would have insured me a full 
hearing, if I had shown a disposition to go on ; 
and his clear intellect would have seized and 
appreciated the strong facts and just inferences 
which would have been presented to him. But 
I stopped short, as if I had nothing more to say, 
from that feeling of self-respect which silences 
a man of some pride when he sees that what he 
says is not valued. I have regretted my hasti 
ness ever since. It was of the utmost moment 
that the new President should have his eyes 
opened to the dangers of the treasury, and my 
services on the Committee of Finance had given 
me opportunities of knowledge which he did 
not possess. Forewarned is forearmed ; and 
never was there a case in which the maxim 
more impressively applied. He could not have 
prevented the suspension: the repeal of the 
specie circular and the deposit with the States 
r\(both measures carried by the help of votes 
from professing friends), had put that measure 
into the hands of those who would be sure to 
use it : but he could have provided against it, 
and prepared for it, and lessened the force of 
the blow when it did come. He might have 
quickened the vigilance of the Secretary of the 
Treasury might have demanded additional se 
curities from the deposit banks and might 
have drawn from them the moneys called for by 
appropriation acts. There was a sum of about 
five millions which might have been saved with 
a stroke of the pen, being the aggregate of sums 
drawn from the treasury by the numerous dis 
bursing officers, and left in the banks in their 
own names for daily current payments : an or 
der to these officers would have saved these 
five millions, and prevented the disgrace and 
damage of a stoppage in the daily payments, and 
the spectacle of a government waking up in the 
morning without a dollar to pay the day-laborer 
with, while placing on its statute book a law 
for the distribution of forty millions of surplus. 
Measures like these, and others which a pru 
dent vigilance would have suggested, might have 
enabled the government to continue its pay 
ments without an extra session of Congress, 



and without the mortification of capitulating 
to the broken banks, by accepting and paying 
out their depreciated notes as the currency of 
the federal treasury. 



CHAPTER III. 

PREPARATION FOR THE DISTRESS AND SUSPEN 
SION. 

IN the autumn of the preceding year, shortly 
before the meeting of Congress, Mr. Biddle, pre 
sident of the Pennsylvania Bank of the United 
States (for that was the ridiculous title it as 
sumed after its resurrection under a Pennsylvania 
charter), issued one of those characteristic letters 
which were habitually promulgated whenever a 
new lead was to be given out, and a new scent 
emitted for the followers of the bank to run 
upon. A new distress, as the pretext for a new 
catastrophe, was now the object. A picture of 
ruin was presented, alarm given out, every thing 
going to destruction; and the federal govern 
ment the cause of the whole, and the national 
recharter of the defunct bank the sovereign 
remedy. The following is an extract from that 
letter. 

" The Bank of the United States has not ceased 
to exist more than seven months, and already 
the whole currency and exchanges are running 
into inextricable confusion, and the industry of 
the country is burdened with extravagant 
charges on all the commercial intercourse of the 
Union. And now, when these banks have been 
created by the Executive, and urged into these 
excesses, instead of gentle and gradual remedies, 
a fierce crusade is raised against them, the funds 
are harshly and suddenly taken from them, and 
they are forced to extraordinary means of de 
fence against the very power which brought 
them into being. They received, and were ex 
pected to receive, in payment for the govern 
ment, the notes of each other and the notes of 
other banks, and the facility with which they 
did so was a ground of special commendation by 
the government; and now that government 
has let loose upon them a demand for specie to 
the whole amount of these notes. I go further. 
There is an outcry abroad, raised by faction, 
and echoed by folly, against the banks of the 
United States. Until it was disturbed by tho 
government, the banking system of the United 
States was at least as good as that of any other 
commercial country. What was desired for its 
perfection was precisely what I have so long 



12 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



striven to accomplish to widen the metallic 
basis of the currency by a greater infusion of 
coin into the smaller channels of circulation. 
This was in a gradual and judicious train of ac 
complishment. But this miserable foolery about 
an exclusively metallic currency, is quite as 
absurd as to discard the steamboats, and go 
back to poling up the Mississippi." 

The lead thus given out was sedulously fol 
lowed during the winter, both in Congress and 
out of it, and at the end of the session had 
reached an immense demonstration in New 
York, in the preparations made to receive Mr. 
Webster, and to hear a speech from him, on his 
return from Washington. He arrived in New 
York on the 15th of March, and the papers of 
the city give this glowing account of his recep 
tion: 

" In conformity with public announcement, 
yesterday, at about half past 3 o'clock, the Honor 
able DANIEL WEBSTER arrived in this city in the 
steamboat Swan from Philadelphia. The intense 
desire on the part of the citizens to give a grate 
ful reception to this great advocate of the consti 
tution, set the whole city in motion towards the 
point of debarkation, for nearly an hour before 
the arrival of the distinguished visitor. At the 
moment Avhen the steamboat reached the pier, 
the assemblage had attained that degree of" 
density and anxiety to witness the landing, that 
it was feared serious consequences would result. 
At half past 3 o'clock Mr. Webster, accompanied 
by Philip Hone and David B. Ogden, landed 
from the boat amidst the deafening cheers and 
plaudits of the multitude, thrice repeated, and 
took his seat in an open barouche provided for 
the occasion. The procession, consisting of 
several hundred citizens upon horseback, a large 
train of carriages and citizens, formed upon State 
street, and after receiving their distinguished 
guest, proceeded with great order up Broadway 
to the apartments arranged for his reception at 
the American Hotel. The scene presented the 
most gratifying spectacle. Hundreds of citizens 
who had been opposed to Mr. Webster in poli 
tics, now that he appeared as a private individ 
ual, came forth to demonstrate their respect for 
his private worth and to express their approba 
tion of his personal character; and thousands 
more who appreciated his principles and political 
integrity, crowded around to convince him of 
their personal attachment } and give evidence of 
their approval of his public acts. The wharves, 
the shipping, the housetops and windows, and 
the streets through which the procession passed, 
were thronged with citizens of every occupation 
and degree, and loud and continued cheers 
greeted the great statesman at every point. 
There was not a greater number at the recep 
tion of General Jackson in this city, with the 
exception of the military, nor a greater degree 



of enthusiasm manifested upon that occasion, 
than the arrival upon our shores of Daniel Web 
ster. At 6 o'clock in the evening, the anxious 
multitude began to move towards Niblo's saloon, 
where Mr. Webster was to be addressed by the 
committee of citizens delegated for that purpose, 
and to which it was expected he would reply. 
A large body of officers were upon the ground 
to keep the assemblage within bounds, and at a 
quarter past six the doors were opened, when 
the saloon, garden, and avenues leading thereto 
were instantly crowded to overflowing. 

The meeting was called to order by Alderman 
Clark, who proposed for president, David B. 
Ogden, which upon being put to vote was unani 
mously adopted. The following gentlemen were 
then elected vice-presidents, viz : Robert C. Cor 
nell. Jonathan Goodhue, Joseph Tucker, Na 
thaniel Weed ; and Joseph Hoxie and G. S. 
Robins, secretaries. 

Mr. W. began his remarks at a quarter before 
seven o'clock, p. M. and concluded them at a 
quarter past nine. When he entered the saloon, 
he was received with the most deafening cheers. 
The hall rang with the loud plaudits of the 
crowd, and every hat was waving. So great 
was the crowd in the galleries, and such was the 
apprehension that the apparently weak wooden 
columns which supported would give way, that 
Mr. W. was twice interrupted with the appalling 
cry " the galleries are falling" when only a 
window was broken, or a stove-pipe shaken. 
The length of the address (two and a half hours), 
none too long, however, for the audience would 
with pleasure have tarried two hours longer, 
compels us to give at present only the heads of 
a speech which we would otherwise now report 
in detail." 

Certainly Mr. Webster was worthy of all 
honors in the great city of New York ; but hav 
ing been accustomed to pass through that city 
several times in every year during the preceding 
quarter of a century, and to make frequent so 
journs there, and to speak thereafter, and in all 
the characters of politician, social guest, and 
member of the bar, it is certain that neither his 
person nor his speaking could be such a novelty 
and rarity as to call out upon his arrival so large 
a meeting as is here described, invest it with so 
much form, fire it with so much enthusiasm, 
fill it with so much expectation, unless there 
had been some large object in view some great 
effect to be produced some consequence to re 
sult: and of all which this imposing demonstra 
tion was at once the sign and the initiative. No 
holiday occasion, no complimentary notice, no 
feeling of personal regard, could have called 
forth an assemblage so vast, and inspired it with 
such deep and anxious emotions. It required a 



ANNO 1837. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



13 



public object, a general interest, a pervading 
concern, and a serious apprehension of some un 
certain and fearful future, to call out and organize 
such a mass not of the young, the ardent, the 
heedless but of the age, the character, the 
talent, the fortune, the gravity of the most 
populous and opulent city of the Union. It was 
as if the population of a great city, in terror of 
some great impending unknown calamity, had 
come forth to get consolation and counsel from 
a wise man to ask him what was to happen ? 
and what they were to do ? And so in fact it 
was, as fully disclosed in the address with which 
the orator was saluted, and in the speech of two 
hours and a half which he made in response to 
it. The address was a deprecation of calamities ; 
the speech was responsive to the address ad 
mitted every thing that could be feared and 
charged the whole upon the mal-administration 
of the federal government. A picture of uni 
versal distress was portrayed, and worse com 
ing; and the remedy for the whole the same 
which had been presented in Mr. Biddle's letter 
the recharter of the national bank. The speech 
was a manifesto against the Jackson administra 
tion, and a protest against its continuation in 
the person of his successor, and an invocation to 
a general combination against it. All the banks 
were sought to be united, and made to stand 
together upon a sense of common danger 
the administration their enemy, the national 
bank their protection. Every industrial pursuit 
was pictured as crippled and damaged by bad 
government. Material injury to private interests 
were still more vehemently charged than polit 
ical injuries to the body politic. In the deplor 
able picture which it presented of the condition 
of every industrial pursuit, and especially in the 
"war" upon the banks and the currency, it 
seemed to be a justificatory pleading in advance 
for a general shutting up of their doors, and the 
shutting up of the federal treasury at the same 
time. In this sense, and on this point } the 
speech contained this ominous sentence, more 
candid than discreet, taken in connection with 
what was to happen : 

" Remember, gentlemen, in the midst of this 
deafening din against all lanlcs, that if it shall 
create such a panic, or such alarm, as shall shut 
up the lanTcs, it will shut up the treasury of the 
United States also" 

The whole tenor of the speech was calculated 
to produce discontent, create distress, and excite 



alarm discontent and distress for present suf 
ferings alarm for the greater, which were to 
come. This is a sample : 

" Gentlemen, I would not willingly be a pro 
phet of ill. I most devoutly wish to see a better 
state of things ; and I believe the repeal of the 
treasury order would tend very much to bring 
about that better state of things. And I am of 
opinion, gentlemen, that the order will be re 
pealed. I think it must be repealed. I think 
the east, west, north and south, will demand its 
repeal. But, gentlemen, I feel it my duty to say, 
that if I should be disappointed in this expecta 
tion, I see no immediate relief to the distresses 
of the community. I greatly fear, even, that 
the worst is not yet. I look for severer dis 
tresses ; for extreme difficulties in exchange ; for 
far greater inconveniences in remittance, and for 
a sudden fall in prices. Our condition is one not 
to be tampered with, and the repeal of the treas 
ury order being something which government 
can do, and which will do good, the public voice 
is right in demanding that repeal. It is true, if 
repealed now, the relief will ?ome late. Never 
theless its repeal or abrogation is a thing to be 
insisted on, and pursued till it shall be accom 
plished." 

The speech concluded with an earnest ex 
hortation to the citizens of New York to do 
something, without saying what, but which with 
my misgivings and presentiments, the whole 
tenor of the speech and the circumstances which 
attended it delivered in the moneyed metropolis 
of the Union, at a time when there was no 
political canvass depending, and the ominous 
omission to name what was required to be done 
appeared to me to be an invitation to the 
New York banks to close their doors ! which 
being done by them would be an example fol 
lowed throughout the Union, and produce the 
consummation of a universal suspension. The 
following is that conclusion : 

" Whigs of New York ! Patriotic citizens of 
this great metropolis ! Lovers of constitutional 
liberty, bound by interest and affection to the 
institutions of your country, Americans in heart 
and in principle ! You are ready, I am sure, to 
fulfil all the duties imposed upon you by your 
situation, and demanded of you by your coun 
try. You have a central position ; your city is 
the point from which intelligence emanates, and 
spreads in all directions over the whole land. 
Every hour carries reports of your sentiments 
and opinions to the verge of the Union. You 
cannot escape the responsibility which circum 
stances have thrown upon you. You must live 
and act on a broad and conspicuous theatre 
either for good or for evil, to your country. You 
cannot shrink away from public duties ; you 



14 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



cannot obscure yourselves, nor bury your talent, 
in the common welfare, in the common pros 
perity, in the common glory of Americans, you 
have a stake, of value not to be calculated. You 
have an interest in the preservation of the Union, 
of the constitution, and of the true principles of 
the government, which no man can estimate. 
You act for yourselves, and for the generations 
that are to come after you ; and those who, ages 
hence, shall bear your names, and partake your 
blood, will feel in their political and social con 
dition, the consequences of the manner in which 
you discharge your political duties." 

The appeal for action in this paragraph is 
vehement. It takes every form of violent desire 
which is known to the art of entreaty. Suppli 
cation, solicitation, remonstrance, importunity, 
prayer, menace ! until rising to the dignity of a 
debt due from a moneyed metropolis to an ex 
pectant community, he demanded payment as 
matter of right ! and enforced the demand as an 
obligation of necessity, as well as of duty, and 
from which such a community could not escape, 
if it would. The nature of the action which was 
so vehemently desired, could not be mistaken. 
I hold it a fair interpretation of this appeal that 
it was an exhortation to the business population 
of the commercial metropolis of the Union to 
take the initiative in suspending specie payments, 
and a justificatory manifesto for doing so ; and 
that the speech itself was the first step in the 
grand performance : and so it seemed to be un 
derstood. It was received with unbounded ap 
plause, lauded to the skies, cheered to the echo, 
carefully and elaborately prepared for publica 
tion, published and republished in newspaper 
and pamphlet form ; and universally circulated. 
This was in the first month of Mr. Van Buren's 
presidency, and it will be seen what the second 
one brought forth. 

The specie circular that treasury order of 
President Jackson, which saved the public lands 
from being converted into broken bank paper 
was the subject of repeated denunciatory refer 
ence very erroneous, as the event has proved, 
in its estimate of the measure ; but quite cor 
rect in its history, and amusing in its reference 
to some of the friends of the administration who 
undertook to act a part for and against the re 
scission of the order at the same time. 

" Mr. Webster then came to the treasury cir 
cular, and related the history of the late legisla 
tion upon it. ' A member of Congress,' said 
he, 'prepared this very treasury order in 1836, 
but the only vote he got for it was his own he 



stood 'solitary' and 'alone' (a laugh); and 
yet eleven days after Congress Had adjourned 
only six months after the President in his 
annual message had congratulated the people 
upon the prosperous sales of the public lauds, 
this order came out in known and direct opposi 
tion to the wishes of nine-tenths of the members 
of Congress.' " 

This is good history from a close witness of 
what he relates. The member referred to as 
having prepared the treasury order, and offered 
it is. the shape of a bill in the Senate, and get 
ting no vote for it but his own, who stood soli 
tary and alone on that occasion, as well as on 
some others was no other than the writer of 
this View; and he has lived to see about as 
much unanimity in favor of that measure since 
as there was against it then. Nine-tenths of the 
members of Congress were then against it, but 
from very different motives some because they 
were deeply engaged in land speculations, and 
borrowed paper from the banks for the purpose ; 
some because they were in the interest of the 
banks, and wished to give their paper credit and 
circulation ; others because they were sincere 
believers in the paper system ; others because 
they were opposed to the President, and be 
lieved him to be in favor of the measure ; others 
again from mere timidity of temperament, and 
constitutional inability to act strongly. And 
these various descriptions embraced friends as 
well as foes to the administration. Mr. Webster 
says the order was issued eleven days after that 
Congress adjourned which had so unanimously 
rejected it. That is true. We only waited for 
Congress to be gone to issue the order. Mr. 
Benton was in the room of the private secre 
tary (Mr. Donelson), hard by the council cham 
ber, while the cabinet sat in council upon this 
measure. They were mostly against it. Gen 
eral Jackson ordered it, and directed the private 
Secretary to bring him a draft of the order to 
be issued. He came to Mr. Benton to draw it 
who did so : and being altered a little, it was 
given to the Secretary of the Treasury to be pro 
mulgated. Then Mr. Benton asked for his draft, 
that he might destroy it. The private secretary 
said no that the time might come when it 
should be known who was at the bottom of that 
Treasury order: and that he would keep it. It 
was issued on the strong will and clear head of 
President Jackson, and saved many ten millions 
to the public treasury. Bales of bank notes were 
on the road to be converted into public lands 



ANNO 1837. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



15 



which this order overtook, and sent back, to 
depreciate in the vaults of the banks instead of 
the coffers of the treasury. To repeal the order 
by law was the effort as soon as Congress met, 
and direct legislation to that effect was proposed 
by Mr. Ewing, of Ohio, but superseded by a cir 
cumlocutory bill from Mr. Walker and Mr. 
Rives, which the President treated as a nullity 
for want of intelligibility: and of which Mr. 
Webster gave this account : 

" If he himself had had power, he would have 
voted for Mr. Ewing's proposition to repeal the 
order, in terms which Mr. Butler and the late 
President could not have misunderstood; but 
power was so strong, and members of Congress 
had now become so delicate about giving offence 
to it, that it would not do, for the world, to 
repeal the obnoxious circular, plainly and forth 
with ; but the ingenuity of the friends of the 
administration must dodge around it, and over 
it and now Mr. Butler had the unkindncss to 
tell them that their views neither he, lawyer as 
he is, nor the President, could possibly under 
stand (a laugh), and that, as it could not be 
understood, the President had pocketed it and 
left it upon the archives of state, no doubt to 
be studied there. Mr. W. would call attention 
to the remarkable fact, that though the Senate 
acted upon this currency bill in season, yet it 
was put off, and put off so that, by no action 
upon it before the ten days allowed the Presi 
dent by the constitution, the power over it was 
completely in his will, even though the whole 
nation and every member of Congress wished 
for its repeal. Mr. W., however, believed that 
such was the pressure of public opinion upon the 
new President, that it must soon be repealed." 

This amphibology of the bill, and delay in 
passing it, and this dodging around and over, 
was occasioned by what Mr. Webster calls the 
delicacy of some members who had the difficult 
part to play, of going with the enemies of the 
administration without going against the ad 
ministration. A chapter in the first volume of 
this View gives the history of this work ; and 
the last sentence in the passage quoted from 
Mr. Webster's speech gives the key to the 
views in which the speech originated, and to 
the proceedings by which it was accompanied 
and followed. " It is believed that such is the 
pressure of public opinion upon the new Pres 
ident that it must soon be repealed" 

In another part of his speech, Mr. Webster 
shows that the repealing bill was put by the 
whigs into the hands of certain friends of the 
administration, to be by them seasoned into a 

alatable dish ; and that they gained no favor 



vith the " bold man " who despised flinching 
and loved decision, even in a foe. Thus : 

" At the commencement of the last session, 
as you know, gentlemen, a resolution was 
>rought forward in the Senate for annulling 
md abrogating this order, by Mr. Ewing, a gen- 
leman of much intelligence, of sound principles, 
of vigorous and energetic character, whose loss 
rom the service of the country, I regard as a 
public misfortune. The whig members all sap- 
Dorted this resolution, and all the members, I 
relieve, with the exception of some five or six, 
were very anxious, in some way, to get rid of 
ihe treasury order. But Mr. Ewing's resolu 
tion was too direct. It was deemed a pointed 
and ungracious attack on executive policy. 
Therefore, it must be softened, modified, quali 
fied, made to sound less harsh to the ears of 
men in power, and to assume a plausible, pol- 
shed, inoffensive character. It was accordingly 
put into the plastic hands of the friends of the 
executive, to be moulded and fashioned, so that 
it might have the effect of ridding the country 
of the obnoxious order, and yet not appear to 
question executive infallibility. All this did 
not answer. The late President is not a man 
to be satisfied with soft words ; and he saw in 
the measure, even as it passed the two houses, 
a substantial repeal of the order. He is a man 
of boldness and decision ; and he respects bold 
ness and decision in others. If you are his 
friend, he expects no flinching ; and if you are 
his adversary, he respects you none the less, for 
carrying your opposition to the full limits of 
honorable warfare." 

Mr. Webster must have been greatly dissat 
isfied with his democratic allies, when he could 
thus, in a public speech, before such an audi 
ence, and within one short month after they 
had been co-operating with him, hold them up 
as equally unmeritable in the eyes of both 
parties. 

History deems it essential to present this 
New York speech of Mr. Webster as part of a 
great movement, without a knowledge of which 
the view would be imperfect. It was the first 
formal public step which was to inaugurate the 
new distress, and organize the proceedings for 
shutting up the banks, and with them, the fed 
eral treasury, with a view to coerce the govern 
ment into submission to the Bank of the United 
States and its confederate politicians. Mr. Van 
Buren was a man of great suavity and gentle 
ness of deportment, and, to those who associated 
the idea of violence with firmness, might be 
supposed deficient in that quality. An experi 
ment upon his nerves was resolved on a pres 
sure of public opinion, in the language of Mr 



16 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



Webster, under which his gentle temperament 
was expected to yield. 



CHAPTER IV. 

PEOGEESS OF THE DISTEESS, AND PEEL1M- 
INAEIES FOE THE SUSPENSION. 

THE speech of Mr. Webster his appeal for 
action was soon followed by its appointed con 
sequence an immense meeting in the city of 
New York. The speech did not produce the 
meeting, any more than the meeting produced 
the speech. Both were in the programme, and 
performed as prescribed, in their respective 
places the speech first, the meeting afterwards ; 
and the latter justified by the former. It was 
an immense assemblage, composed of the elite 
of what was foremost in the city for property, 
talent, respectability ; and took for its business 
the consideration of the times : the distress of 
the times, and the nature of the remedy. The 
imposing form of a meeting, solemn as well as 
numerous and respectable, was gone through : 
speeches made, resolutions adopted : order and 
emphasis given to the proceedings. A presi 
dent, ten vice-presidents, two secretaries, seven 
orators (Mr. "Webster not among them: he 
had performed his part, and made his exit), 
officiated in the ceremonies ; and thousands of 
citizens constituted the accumulated mass. 
The spirit and proceedings of the meeting were 
concentrated in a series of resolves, each stronger 
than the other, and each more welcome than 
the former ; and all progressive, from facts and 
principles declared, to duties and performances 
recommended. The first resolve declared the 
existence of the distress, and made the picture 
gloomy enough. It was in these words : 

" Whereas, the great commercial interests of 
our city have nearly reached a point of general 
ruin our merchants driven from a state of 
prosperity to that of unprecedented difficulty 
and bankruptcy the business, activity and 
energy, which have heretofore made us the 
polar star of the new world, is daily sinking, 
and taking from us the fruits of years of indus 
try reducing the aged among us, who but yes 
terday were sufficiently in affluence, to a state 
of comparative want; and blighting the pros 
pects, and blasting the hopes of the young 
throughout our once prosperous land : we deem 
it our duty to express to the country our situa 
tion and desires, while yet there is time to re- 
Lrace error, and secure those rights and perpet 



uate those principles which were bequeathed us 
by our fathers, and which we are bound to make 
every honorable effort to maintain." 

After the fact of the distress, thus established 
by a resolve, came the cause ; and this was the 
condensation of Mr. Webster's speech, collect 
ing into a point what had been oratorically dif 
fused over a wide surface. What was itself a 
condensation cannot be further abridged, and 
must be given in its own words : 

"That the wide-spread disaster which has 
overtaken the commercial interests of the coun 
try, and which threatens to produce general 
bankruptcy, may be in a great measure ascribed 
to the interference of the general government 
with the commercial and business operations 
of the country ; its intermeddling with the cur 
rency ; its destruction of the national bank ; 
its attempt to substitute a metallic for a credit 
currency; and, finally, to the issuing by the 
President of the United States of the treasury 
order, known as the " specie circular." 

The next resolve foreshadowed the conse 
quences which follow from governmental perse 
verance in such calamitous measures general 
bankruptcy to the dealing classes, starvation to 
the laboring classes, public convulsions, and 
danger to our political institutions ; with an ad 
monition to the new President of what might 
happen to himself, if he persevered in the " ex 
periments" of a predecessor whose tyranny 
and oppression had made him the scourge of his 
country. But let the resolve speak for itself: 

"That while we would do nothing which 
might for a moment compromit our respect for 
the laws, we feel it incumbent upon us to re 
mind the executive of the nation, that the gov 
ernment of the country, as of late administered, 
has become the oppressor of the people, instead 
of affording them protection that his persever 
ance in the experiment of his predecessor (after 
the public voice, in every way in which that 
voice could be expressed, has clearly denounced 
it as ruinous to the best interests of the coun 
try) has already caused the ruin of thousands 
of merchants, thrown tens of thousands of me 
chanics and laborers out of employment, depre 
ciated the value of our great staple millions of 
dollars, destroyed the internal exchanges, and 
prostrated the energies and blighted the pros 
pects of the industrious and enterprising por 
tion of our people ; and must, if persevered in, 
not only produce starvation among the labor 
ing classes, but inevitably lead to disturbances 
which may endanger the stability of our insti 
tutions themselves." 

This word K experiment " had become a sta 
ple phrase in all the distress oratory and litera- 



ANNO 1837. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



17 



ture of the day, sometimes heightened by the 
prefix of " quack," and was applied to all the 
efforts of the administration to return the fed 
eral government to the hard money currency, 
which was the currency of the constitution and 
the currency of all countries j and which efforts 
were now treated as novelties and dangerous 
innovations. Universal was the use of the 
phrase by one of the political parties some 
twenty years ago : dead silent are their tongues 
upon it now! Twenty years of successful 
working of the government under the hard 
money system has put an end to the repetition 
of a phrase which has suffered the fate of all 
catch-words of party, and became more dis 
tasteful to its old employers than it ever was 
to their adversaries. It has not been heard 
since the federal government got divorced from 
bank and paper money ! since gold and silver 
has become the sole currency of the federal gov 
ernment! since, in fact, the memorable epoch 
when the Bank of the United States (former 
sovereign remedy for all the ills the body poli 
tic was heir to) has become a defunct authority, 
and an " obsolete idea." 

1 The next resolve proposed a direct movement 
upon the President nothing less than a com 
mittee of fifty to wait upon him, and " remon 
strate" with him upon what was called the 
ruinous measures of the government. 

" That a committee of not less than fifty be 
appointed to repair to Washington, and remon 
strate with the Executive against the continu 
ance of " the specie circular;" and in behalf of 
this meeting and in the name of the merchants 
of New York, and the people of the United 
States, urge its immediate repeal." 

This formidable committee, limited to a min 
imum of fifty, open to a maximum of any 
amount, besides this "remonstrance" against 
the specie circular, were also instructed to pe 
tition the President to forbear the collection of 
merchants' bonds by suit ; and also to call an 
extra session of Congress. The first of these 
measures was to stop the collection of the ac 
cruing revenues: the second, to obtain from 
Congress that submission to the bank power 
which could not be obtained from the Presi 
dent, Formidable as were the arrangements 
for acting on the President, provision was dis- 
treetly made for a possible failure, and for the 
prosecution of other measures. With this view, 
VOL. II. 2 



the committee of fifty, after their return from 
Washington, were directed to call another gen 
eral meeting of the citizens of New York, and 
to report to them the results of their mission. 
A concluding resolution invited the co-opera* 
tion of the other great cities in these proceed 
ings, and seemed to look to an imposing demon 
stration of physical force, and strong determina 
tion, as a means of acting on the mind, or will 
of the President ; and thus controlling the free 
action of the constitutional authorities. This 
resolve was specially addressed to the merchants 
of Philadelphia, Boston and Baltimore, and gen 
erally addressed to all other commercial cities, 
and earnestly prayed their assistance in saving 
the whole country from ruin. 

"That merchants' of Philadelphia, Boston. 
Baltimore, and the commercial cities of the 
Union, be respectfully requested to unite with 
us in our remonstrance and petition, and to use 
their exertions, in connection with us, to induce 
the Executive of the nation to listen to the voice 
of the people, and to recede from a measure 
under the evils of which we are now laboring, 
and which threatens to involve the whole 
country in ruin." 

The language and import of all these resolves 
and proceedings were sufficiently strong, and 
indicated a feeling but little short of violence 
towards the government ; but, according to the 
newspapers of the city, they were subdued and 
moderate tame and spiritless, in comparison 
to the feeling which animated the great meet 
ing. A leading paper thus characterized that 
feeling : 

" The meeting was a remarkable one for the 
vast numbers assembled the entire decorum 
of the proceedings and especially for the deep, 
though subdued and restrained, excitement 
which evidently pervaded the mighty mass. 
It was a spectacle that could not be looked 
upon without emotion, that of many thousand 
men trembling, as it were, on the brink of 
ruin, owing to the measures, as they verily be 
lieve, of their own government, which should 
be their friend, instead of their oppressor and 
yet meeting with deliberation and calmness, lis 
tening to a narrative of their wrongs, and the 
causes thereof, adopting such resolutions as 
were deemed judicious ; and then quietly sepa 
rating, to abide the result of their firm but re 
spectful remonstrances. But it is proper and 
fit to say that this moderation must not be mis 
taken for pusillanimity, nor be trifled with, as 
though it could not by any aggravation of 
wrong be moved from its propriety. No man 



18 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



accustomed, from the expression of the counte 
nance, to translate the emotions of the heart, 
could have looked upon the faces and the bear 
ing of the multitude assembled last evening, and 
not have felt that there were fires smouldering 
there, which a single spark might cause to burst 
into flame." 

Smouldering fires which a single spark might 
light into a flame ! Possibly that spark might 
have been the opposing voice of some citizen, 
who thought the meeting mistaken, both in the 
fact of the ruin of the country and the attribu 
tion of that ruin to the specie circular. No 
such voice was lifted no such spark applied, 
and the proposition to march 10,000 men to 
Washington to demand a redress of grievances 
was not sanctioned. The committee of fifty 
was deemed sufficient, as they certainly were, 
for every purpose of peaceful communication. 
They were eminently respectable citizens, any 
two, or any one of which, or even a mail trans 
mission of their petition, would have com 
manded for it a most respectful attention. 
The grand committee arrived at Washington 
asked an audience of the President received 
it ; but with the precaution (to avoid mistakes) 
that written communications should alone be 
used. The committee therefore presented their 
demands in writing, and a paragraph from it 
will show the degree to which the feeling of the 
city had allowed itself to be worked up. 

" We do not tell a fictitious tale of woe ; we 
have no selfish or partisan views to sustain, 
when we assure you that the noble city which 
we represent, lies prostrate in despair, its credit 
blighted, its industry paralyzed, and without a 
hope beaming through the darkness of the 
future, unless the government of our country 
can be induced to relinquish the measures to 
which we attribute our distress. We fully 
appreciate the respect which is due to our chief 
magistrate, and disclaim every intention incon 
sistent with that feeling ; but we speak in be 
half of a community which trembles upon the 
brink of ruin, which deems itself an adequate 
judge of all questions connected with the trade 
and currency of the country, and believes that 
the policy adopted by the recent administra 
tion and sustained by the present, is founded 
in ei ror, and threatens the destruction of every 
department of industry. Under a deep impres 
sion of the propriety of confining our declara 
tions within moderate limits, we affirm that the 
value of our real estate has, within the last six 
months, depreciated more than forty millions : 
that within the last two months, there have 
been more than two hundred and fifty failures 



of houses engaged in extensive business : that 
within the same period, a decline of twenty 
millions of dollars has occurred in our local 
stocks, including those railroad and canal in 
corporations, which, though chartered in other 
States, depend chiefly upon New York for their 
sale : that the immense amount of merchandise 
in our warehouses has within the same period 
fallen in value at least thirty per cent. ; that 
within a few weeks, not less than twenty thou 
sand individuals, depending on their daily labor 
for their daily bread, have been discharged by 
their employers., because the means of retaining 
them were exhausted and that a complete 
blight has fallen upon a community heretofore 
so active, enterprising and prosperous. The 
error of our rulers has produced a wider deso 
lation than the pestilence which depopulated 
our streets, or the conflagration, which laid 
them in ashes. We believe that it is unjust to 
attribute these evils to any excessive develop 
ment of mercantile enterprise, and that they 
really flow from that unwise system which 
aimed at the substitution of a metallic for a 
paper currency the system which gave the 
first shock to the fabric of our commercial 
prosperity by removing the public deposits 
from the United States bank, which weakened 
every part of the edifice by the destruction of 
that useful and efficient institution, and now 
threatens to crumble it into a mass of ruins 
under the operations of the specie circular, 
which withdrew the gold and silver of the 
country from the channels in which it could be 
profitably employed. We assert that the ex 
periment has had a fair a liberal trial, and that 
disappointment and mischief are visible in all 
its results that the promise of a regulated 
currency and equalized exchanges has been 
broken, the currency totally disordered, and in 
ternal exchanges almost entirely discontinued. 
We, therefore, make our earnest appeal to the 
Executive, and ask whether it is not time to in 
terpose the paternal authority of the govern 
ment, and abandon the policy which is beggar 
ing the people." 

The address was read to the President. Ho 
heard it with entire composure made no sort 
of remark upon it treated the gentlemen with 
exquisite politeness and promised them a 
written answer the next day. This was the 
third of May : on the fourth the answer was 
delivered. It was an answer worthy of a Pres 
ident a calm, quiet, decent, peremptory refusal 
to comply with a single one of their demands ! 
with a brief reason, avoiding all controversy, and 
foreclosing all further application, by a clean re 
fusal in each case. The committee had nothing 
to do but to return, and report : and they did 
so. There had been a mistake committed in 



ANNO 1837. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



19 



the estimate of the man. Mr. Van Buren vin 
dicated equally the rights of the chief magis 
trate, and his own personal decorum ; and left 
the committee without any thing to complain of, 
although unsuccessful in all their objects. He 
also had another opportunity of vindicating his 
personal and official decorum in another visit 
which he received about the same time. Mr. 
Biddle called to see the President apparently 
a call of respect on the chief magistrate about 
the same time, but evidently with the design to 
be consulted, and to appear as the great restorer 
of the currency. Mr. Van Buren received the 
visit according to its apparent intent, with en 
tire civility, and without a word on public 
affairs. Believing Mr. Biddle to be at the bottom 
of the suspension, he could not treat him with 
the confidence and respect which a consultation 
would imply. He (Mr. Biddle) felt the slight, 
and caused this notice to be put in the papers : 

" Being on other business at Washington. Mr. 
Biddle took occasion to call on the President 
of the United States, to pay his respects to him 
in that character, and especially, to afford the 
President an opportunity, if he chose to em 
brace it, to speak of the present state of things, 
and to confer, if he saw fit, with the head of the 
largest banking institution in the country and 
that the institution in which such general ap 
plication has been made for relief. During the 
interview, however, the President remained pro 
foundly silent upon the great and interesting 
topics of the day ; and as Mr. Biddle did not 
think it his business to introduce them, not a 
word in relation to them was said." 

Returning to New York, the committee con 
voked another general meeting of the citizens, 
as required to do at the time of their appoint 
ment ; and made their report to it, recommend 
ing further forbearance, and further reliance on 
the ballot box, although (as they said) history 
recorded many popular insurrections where the 
provocation was less. A passage from this report 
will show its spirit, and to what excess a commu 
nity may be excited about nothing, by the mu 
tual inflammation of each other's passions and 
complaints, combined with a power to act upon 
the business and interests of the people. 

" From this correspondence it is obvious, fel 
low-citizens, that we must abandon all nope 
that either the justice of our claims or the se 
verity of our sufferings will induce the Execu 
tive to abandon or relax the policy which has 
produced such desolating effects and it remains 



for us to consider what more is to be done in 
this awful crisis of our affairs. Our first dutj 
under losses and distresses which we have en 
dured, is to cherish with religious care the 
blessings which we yet enjoy, and which can be 
protected only by a strict observance of the 
laws upon which society depends for security 
and happiness. We do not disguise our opinion 
that the pages of history record, and the opin 
ions of mankind justify, numerous instances of 
popular insurrection, the provocation to which 
was less severe than the evils of which we com 
plain. But in these cases, the outraged and 
oppressed had no other means of redress. Our 
case is different. If we can succeed in an effort 
to bring public opinion into sympathy with the 
views which we entertain, the Executive will 
abandon the policy which oppresses, instead of 
protecting the people. Do not despair because 
the time at which the ballot box can exercise 
its healing influence appears so remote the sa 
gacity of the practical politician will perceive 
the change in public sentiment before you are 
aware of its approach. But the effort to pro 
duce this change must be vigorous and untir 
ing." 

The meeting adopted corresponding resolu 
tions. Despairing of acting on the President, 
the move was to act upon the people to rouse 
and combine them against an administration 
which was destroying their industry, and to re 
move from power (at the elections) those who 
were destroying the industry of the country. 
Thus: 

" Resolved, That the interests of the capital 
ists, merchants, manufacturers, mechanics and in 
dustrious classes, are dependent upon each other, 
and any measures of the government which 
prostrate the active business men of the com 
munity, will also deprive honest industry of its 
reward; and we call upon all our fellow-citizens 
to unite with us in removing from power those 
who persist in a system that is destroying the 
prosperity of our country." 

Another resolve summed up the list of griev 
ances of which they complained, and enumerat 
ed the causes of the pervading ruin which had 
been brought upon the country. Thus : 

" Resolved, That the chief causes of the ex 
isting distress are the defeat of Mr. Clay's land 
bill, the removal of the public deposits, the re 
fusal to re -charter the Bank of the United 
States, and the issuing of the specie circular. 
The land bill was passed by the people's repre 
sentatives, and vetoed by the President the bill 
rechartering the bank was passed by the peo 
ple's representatives, and vetoed by the Presi 
dent. The people's representatives declared by 
a solemn resolution, that the public deposits 



20 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



were safe in the United States Bank ; within a 
few weeks thereafter, the President removed the 
public deposits. The people's representatives 
passed a bill rescinding the specie circular : the 
President destroyed it by omitting to return it 
within the limited period ; and in the answer to 
our addresses, President Van Buren declares 
that the specie circular was issued by his pre 
decessor, omitting all notice of the Secretary of 
the Treasury, who is amenable directly to Con 
gress, and charged by the act creating his de 
partment with the superintendence of the finan 
ces, and who signed the order." 

These two resolves deserve to be noted. They 
were not empty or impotent menace. They 
were for action, and became what they were in 
tended for. The moneyed corporations, united 
with a political party, were in the field as a po 
litical power, to govern the elections, and to 
govern them, by the only means known to a 
moneyed power by operating on the interests 
of men, seducing some, alarming and distressing 
the masses. They are the key to the manner of 
conducting the presidential election, and which 
will be spoken of in the proper place. The 
union of Church and State has been generally 
condemned : the union of Bank and State is far 
more condemnable. Here the union was not 
with the State, but with a political party, nearly 
as strong as the party in possession of the 
government, and exemplified the evils of the 
meretricious connection between money and 
politics ; and nothing but this union could have 
produced the state of things which so long 
afflicted the country, and from which it has 
been relieved, not by the cessation of their im 
puted causes, but by their perpetuation. It is 
now near twenty years since this great meeting 
was held in New York. The ruinous measures 
complained of have not been revoked, but be 
come permanent. They have been in full force, 
and made stronger, for near twenty years. The 
universal and black destruction which was to en- 
eue their briefest continuance, has been substi 
tuted by the most solid, brilliant, pervading, and 
abiding prosperity that any people ever beheld. 
Thanks to the divorce of Bank and State. But 
the consummation was not yet. Strong in her 
name, and old recollections, and in her political 
connections dominant over other banks brib 
ing with one hand, scourging with the other a 
long retinue of debtors and retainers desperate 
in her condition impotent for good, powerful 
for evil confederated with restless politicians, 



and wickedly, corruptly, and revengefully ruled: 
the Great Red Harlot, profaning the name of a 
National Bank, was still to continue a while 
longer its career of abominations maintaining 
dubious contest with the government which 
created it, upon whose name and revenues it 
had gained the wealth and power of which it 
was still the shade, and whose destruction it 
plotted because it could not rule it. Posterity 
should know these things, that by avoiding bank 
connections, their governments may avoid tho 
evils that we have suffered ; and, by seeing the 
excitements of 1837, they may save themselves 
from ever becoming the victims of such delusion. 



CHAPTER V. 

ACTUAL SUSPENSION OF THE BANKS : PEOPAGA- 
TION OF THE ALARM. 

NONE of the public meetings, and there were 
many following the leading one in New York, 
recommended in terms a suspension of specie 
payments by the banks. All avoided, by con 
cert or instinct, the naming of that high 
measure ; but it was in the list, and at the head 
of the list, of the measures to be adopted ; and 
every thing said or done was with a view to that 
crowning event ; and to prepare the way for it 
before it came ; and to plead its subsequent justi 
fication by showing its previous necessity. It 
was in the programme, and bound to come in its 
appointed time ; and did and that within a few 
days after the last great meeting in New York. 
It took place quietly and generally, on the morn 
ing of the 10th of May, altogether, and with a 
concert and punctuality of action, and with a 
military and police preparation, which an 
nounced arrangement and determination; such 
as attend revolts and insurrections in other 
countries. The preceding night all the banks 
of the city, three excepted, met by their officers, 
and adopted resolutions to close their doors in 
the morning : and gave out notice to that effect. 
At the same time three regiments of volunteers, 
and a squadron of horse, were placed on duty in 
the principal parts of the city ; and the entire 
police force, largely reinforced with special con 
stables, was on foot. This was to suppress the 
discontent of those who might be too much 



ANNO 1837. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



21 



dissatisfied at being repulsed when they came to 
ask for the amount of a deposit, or the contents 
of a bank note. It was a humiliating spectacle, 
but an effectual precaution. The people remained 
quiet. At twelve o'clock a large mercantile meet 
ing took place. Resolutions were adopted by it to 
sustain the suspension, and the newspaper press 
was profuse and energetic in its support. The 
measure was consummated : the suspension was 
complete : it was triumphant in that city whose 
example, in such a case, was law to the rest of 
the Union. But, let due discrimination be made. 
Though all the banks joined in the act, all were 
not equally culpable; and some, in fact, not 
culpable at all, but victims of the criminality, or 
misfortunes of others. It was the effect of ne 
cessity with the deposit banks, exhausted by 
vain efforts to meet the quarterly deliveries of 
the forty millions to be deposited with the 
States; and pressed on all sides because they 
were government banks, and because the pro 
gramme required them to stop first. It was an 
act of self-defence in others which were too weak 
to stand alone, and which followed with reluc 
tance an example which they could not resist. 
With others it was an act of policy, and of 
criminal contrivance, as the means of carrying a 
real distress into the ranks of the people, and 
exciting them against the political party to 
whose acts the distress was attributed. But the 
prime mover, and master manager of the sus 
pension, was the Bank of the United States, 
then rotten to the core and tottering to its fall, 
but strong enough to carry others with it, and 
seeking to hide its own downfall in the crash of 
a general catastrophe. Having contrived the 
suspension, it wished to appear as opposing it, 
and as having been dragged down by others ; and 
accordingly took the attitude of a victim. But 
the impudence and emptiness of that pretension 
was soon exposed by the difficulty which other 
banks had in forcing her to resume ; and by the 
facility with which she fell back, " solitary and 
alone," into the state of permanent insolvency 
from which the other banks had momentarily 
galvanized her. But the occasion was too good 
to be lost for one of those complacent epistles, 
models of quiet impudence and cool mendacity, 
with which Mr. Biddle was accustomed to regale 
the public in seasons of moneyed distress. It was 
impossible to forego such an opportunity ; and, 
accordingly, three days after the New York sus 



pension, and two days after his own, he held 
forth in a strain of which the following is a 
sample : 

" All the deposit banks of the government of 
the United States in the city of New York sus 
pended specie payments this week the deposit 
banks elsewhere have followed their example; 
which was of course adopted by the State banks 
not connected with the government. I say of 
course, because it is certain that when the gov 
ernment banks cease to pay specie, all the other 
banks must cease, and for this clear reason. The 
great creditor in the United States is the govern 
ment. It receives for duties the notes of the 
various banks, which are placed for collection in 
certain government banks, and are paid to those 
government banks in specie if requested. From 
the moment that the deposit banks of New 
York, failed to comply with their engagements, 
it was manifest that all the other deposit banks 
must do the same, that there must be a universal 
suspension throughout the country, and that the 
treasury itself in the midst of its nominal abun 
dance must be practically bankrupt." 

This was all true. The stoppage of the de 
posit banks was the stoppage of the Treasury. 
Non-payment by the government, was an excuse 
for non-payment by others. Bankruptcy was 
the legal condition of non-payment; and that 
condition was the fate of the government as well 
as of others ; and all this was perfectly known 
before by those who contrived, and those who 
resisted the deposit with the States and the use 
of paper money by the federal government. 
These two measures made the suspension and 
the bankruptcy ; and all this was so obvious to 
the writer of this View that he proclaimed it 
incessantly in his speeches, and was amazed at 
the conduct of those professing friends of the 
administration who voted with the opposition 
on these measures, and by their votes insured the 
bankruptcy of the government which they pro 
fessed to support. Mr. Biddle was right. The 
deposit banks were gone ; the federal treasury 
was bankrupt ; and those two events were two 
steps on the road which was to lead to the re- 
establishment of the Bank of the United States ! 
and Mr. Biddle stood ready with his bank to 
travel that road. The next paragraph displayed 
this readiness. 

K In the midst of these disorders the Bank 
of the United States occupies a peculiar posi 
tion, and has special duties. Had it consulted 
merely its own strength it would have contin 
ued its payments without reserve. But ui 



22 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



auch a sta+e of things the first considera 
tion is how to escape from it how to provide 
at the earliest practicable moment to change a 
condition which should not be tolerated beyond 
the necessity which commanded it. The old 
associations, the extensive connections, the 
established credit, the large capital of the 
Bank of the United States, rendered it the 
natural rallying point of the country for the 
resumption of specie payments. It seemed 
wiser, therefore, not to waste its strength in a 
struggle which might be doubtful while the,Exe- 
cutive persevered in its present policy, but to 
husband all its resources so as to profit by the 
first favorable moment to take the lead in the 
early resumption of specie payments. Accord 
ingly the Bank of the United States assumes 
that position. From this moment its eiforts 
will be to keep itself strong, and to make itself 
stronger; always prepared and always anxious 
to assist in recalling the currency and the ex 
changes of the country to the point from which 
they have fallen. It will co-operate cordially 
and zealously with the government, with the 
government banks, with all the other banks, and 
with any other influences which can aid in that 
object." 

This was a bold face for an eviscerated insti 
tution to assume one which was then nothing 
but the empty skin of an immolated victim 
the contriver of the suspension to cover its own 
rottenness, and the architect of distress and 
ruin that out of the public calamity it might get 
again into existence and replenish its coffers out 
of the revenues and credit of the federal govern 
ment. " Would have continued specie payments, 
if it had only consulted its own strength " 
" only suspended from a sense of duty and 
patriotism " : ' will take the lead in resuming " 
" assumes the position of restorer of the cur 
rency " " presents itself as the rallying point 
of the country in the resumption of specie pay 
ments " " even promises to co-operate with the 
government : " such were the impudent profes 
sions at the very moment that this restorer of 
currency, and rallying point of resumption, was 
plotting a continuance of the distress and sus 
pension until it could get hold of the federal 
moneys to recover upon ; and without which it 
never could recover. 

Indissolubly connected with this bank suspen 
sion, and throwing a broad light upon its history, 
(if further light were wanted,) was Mr. Web 
ster's tour to the West, and the speeches which 
he made in the course of it. The tour extended 
to the Valley of the Mississippi, and the speeches 
took for their burden the distress and the sus 



pension, excusing and justifying the banks, 
throwing all blame upon the government, and 
looking to the Bank of the United States for 
the sole remedy. It was at Wheeling that he 
opened the series of speeches which he delivered 
in his tour, it being at that place that he was over 
taken by the news of the suspension, and which 
furnished him with the text for his discourse. 

" Recent evils have not at all surprised me, ex 
cept that they have come sooner and faster than 
I had anticipated. But, though not surprised, 
I am afflicted ; I feel any thing but pleasure in 
this early fulfilment of my own predictions. 
Much injury is done which the wisest future 
counsels can never repair, and much more that 
can never be remedied but by such counsels and 
by the lapse of time. From 1832 to the present 
moment I have foreseen this result. I may 
safely say I have foreseen it, because I have 
presented and proclaimed its approach in 
every important discussion and debate, in the 
public body of which I am a member. We 
learn to-day that most of the eastern banks 
have stopped payment ; deposit banks as 
well as others. The experiment has exploded. 
That bubble, which so many of us have all 
along regarded as the offspring of conceit, pre 
sumption and political quackery, has burst. A 
general suspension of payment must be the re 
sult ; a result which has come, even sooner than 
was predicted. Where is now that better cur 
rency that was promised? Where is that spe 
cie circulation ? Where are those rupees of gold 
and silver^ which were to fill the treasury of the 
government as well as the pockets of the peo 
ple ? Has the government a single hard dollar? 
Has the treasury any thing in the world but 
credit and deposits in banks that have already 
suspended payment ? How are public creditors 
now to be paid in specie ? How are the depo 
sits, which the law requires to be made with the 
states on the 1st of July, now to be made." 

This was the first speech that Mr. Webster 
delivered after the great one before the suspen 
sion in New York, and may be considered the 
epilogue after the performance as the former 
was the prologue before it. It is a speech of 
exultation, with bitter taunts to the government. 
In one respect his information was different from 
mine. He said the suspension came sooner than 
was expected : my information was that it came 
later, a month later ; and that he himself was 
the cause of the delay. My information was 
that it was to take place in the first month of 
Mr. Van Buren's administration, and that the 
speech which was to precede it was to be delivered 
early in March, immediately after the adjourn- 



ANNO 1837. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



23 



ment of Congress : but it was not delivered till 
the middle of that month, nor got ready for 
pamphlet publication until the middle of April ; 
which delay occasioned a corresponding post 
ponement in all the subsequent proceedings. 
The complete shutting up of the treasury the 
loss of its moneys the substitution of broken 
bank paper for hard money the impossibility 
of paying a dollar to a creditor : these were the 
points of his complacent declamation : and hav 
ing made these points strong enough and clear 
enough, he came to the remedy, and fell upon 
the same one, in almost the same words, that 
Mr. Biddle was. using at the same time, four 
hundred miles distant, in Philadelphia: and 
that without the aid of the electric telegraph, 
not then in use. The recourse to the Bank of 
the United States was that remedy ! that bank 
strong enough to hold out, (unhappily the news 
ot its suspending arrived while he was speak 
ing :) patriotic enough to do so ! but under no 
obligation to do better than the doposit banks ! 
and justifiable in following their example. Hear 
him : 

" The United States Bank, now a mere state 
rnsti tution, with no public deposits, no aid from 
government, but, on the contrary, long an object 
of bitter persecution by it, was at our latest 
advices still firm. But can we expect of that 
Bank to make sacrifices to continue specie pay 
ment ? If it continue to do so, now the depo 
sit banks have stopped, the government will 
draw from it its last dollar, if it can do so, in 
order to keep up a pretence of making its own 
payments in specie. I shall be glad if this in 
stitution find it prudent and proper to hold out ; 
but as it owes no more duty to the government 
than any other bank, and, of course, much less 
than the deposit banks, I cannot see any ground 
for demanding from it efforts and sacrifices to 
favor the government, which those holding the 
public money, and owing duty to the govern 
ment, are unwilling or unable to make ; nor do 
I see how the New England banks can stand 
alone in the general crush." 

The suspension was now complete ; and it was 
evident, and as good as admitted by those who 
had made it, that it was the effect of contrivance 
on the part of politicians, and the so-called 
Bank of the United States, for the purpose of 
restoring themselves to power. The whole 
process was now clear to the vision of those 
who could see nothing while it was going on. 
Even those of the democratic party whose votes 
had helped to do the mischief, could now see 



that the attempt to deposit forty millions with 
the States was destruction to the deposit banks ; 
that the repeal of the specie circular was to 
fill the treasury with paper money, to be found 
useless when wanted ; that distress was pur 
posely created in order to throw the blame of it 
upon the party in power ; that the promptitude 
with which the Bank of the United States had 
been brought forward as a remedy for the distress, 
showed that it had been held in reserve for that 
purpose ; and the delight with which the whig 
party saluted the general calamity, showed that 
they considered it their own passport to power. 
All this became visible, after the mischief was 
over, to those who could see nothing of it before 
it was done. 



CHAPTER VI. 

TRANSMIGRATION OF THE BANK OF THE UNI- 
TED STATES FEOM A FEDEKAL TO A STATE IN 
STITUTION. 

THIS institution having again appeared on the 
public theatre, politically and financially, and 
with power to influence national legislation, and 
to control moneyed corporations, and with art 
and skill enough to deceive astute merchants 
and trained politicians, (for it is not to be 
supposed that such men would have committed 
themselves in her favor if they had known her 
condition,) it becomes necessary to trace her 
history since the expiration of her charter, and 
learn by what means she continued an exist 
ence, apparently without change, after having 
undergone the process which, in law and in 
reason, is the death of a corporation. It is a 
marvellous history, opening a new chapter in 
the necrology of corporations, very curious to 
study, and involving in its solution, besides the 
biological mystery, the exposure of a legal 
fraud and juggle, a legislative smuggle, and a 
corrupt enactment. The charter of the corpo 
ration had expired upon its own limitation in 
the year 1836 : it was entitled to two years to 
wind up its affairs, engaging in no new busi 
ness : but was seen to go on after the expira 
tion, as if still in full life, and without the 
change of an attribute or feature. The expla 
nation is this : 

On the 19th day of January, in the year 



24 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



1836, a bill was reported in the House of Rep 
resentatives of the General Assembly of Penn 
sylvania, entitled, "An act to repeal the State 
tax^ and to continue the improvement of the 
State by railroads and canals ; and for other 
purposes." It came from the standing com 
mittee on "Inland navigation and internal 
improvement ; " and was, in fact, a bill to re 
peal a tax and make roads and canals, but 
which, under the vague and usually unimpor 
tant generality of " other purposes," contained 
the entire draught of a charter for the Bank of 
the United States adopting it as a Pennsylvania 
State bank. The introduction of the bill, with 
this addendum, colossal tail to it, was a surprise 
upon the House. No petition had asked for such 
a bank : no motion had been made in relation to 
it : no inquiry had been sent to any committee : 
no notice of any kind had heralded its approach: 
no resolve authorized its report : the unimpor 
tant clause of " other purposes," hung on at the 
end of the title, could excite no suspicion of the 
enormous measures which lurked under its un 
pretentious phraseology. Its advent was an 
apparition: its entrance an intrusion. Some 
members looked at each other in amazement. 
But it was soon evident that it was the minor 
ity only that was mystified that a majority 
of the elected members in the House, and a 
cluster of exotics in the lobbies, perfectly un 
derstood the intrusive movement : in brief, it 
had been smuggled into the House, and a power 
was present to protect it there. This was the 
first intimation that had reached the General 
Assembly, the people of Pennsylvania, or the 
people of the United States, that the Bank of 
the United States was transmigrating ! chang 
ing itself from a national to a local institution 
from a federal to a State charter from an im 
perial to a provincial institution retaining all 
the while its body and essence, its nature and 
attributes, its name and local habitation. It 
was a new species of metempsychosis, hereto 
fore confined to souls separated from bodies, 
but now appearing in a body that never had a 
soul : for that, according to Sir Edward Coke, 
is the psychological condition of a corporation 
and, above all, of a moneyed corporation. 

The mystified members demanded explana 
tions ; and it was a case in which explanations 
could not be denied. Mr. Biddle, in a public 
etter to an eminent citizen, on whose name he 



had been accustomed to hang such productions, 
(Mr. John Quincy Adams,) attributed the pro 
cedure, so far as he had moved in it, to a 
"formal application on the part of the legis 
lature to know from him on what terms the 
expiring bank would receive a charter from 
it;" and gave up the names of two members 
who had conveyed the application. The legis 
lature had no knowledge of the proceeding. 
The two members whose names had been 
vouched disavowed the legislative application, 
but admitted that, in compliance with sugges- 
tionis, they had written a letter to Mr. Biddle in 
their own names, making the inquiry ; but with 
out the sanction of the legislature, or the knowl 
edge of the committees of which they were 
members. They did not explain the reason 
which induced them to take the initiative in so 
important business ; and the belief took root 
that their good nature had yielded to an impor 
tunity from an invisible source, and that they 
had consented to give a private and bungling 
commencement to what must have a beginning, 
and which could not find it in any open or par 
liamentary form. It was truly a case in which 
the first step cost the difficulty. How to begin 
was the puzzle, and so to begin as to conceal 
the beginning, was the desideratum. The finger 
of the bank must not be seen in it, yet, without 
the touch of that finger, the movement could 
not begin. "Without something from the Bank 
without some request or application from it, 
it would have been gratuitous and impertinent, 
and might have been insulting and offensive, to 
have offered it a State charter. To apply 
openly for a charter was to incur a publicity 
which would be the defeat of the whole move 
ment. The answer of Mr. Biddle to the two 
members, dexterously treating their private let 
ter, obtained by solicitation, as a formal legis 
lative application, surmounted the difficulty! 
and got the Bank before the legislature, where 
there were friends enough secretly prepared for 
the purpose to pass it through. The terms had 
been arranged with Mr. Biddle beforehand, so 
that there was nothing to be done but to vote. 
The principal item in these terms was the stip 
ulation to pay the State the sum of $1,300,000, 
to be expended in works of internal improve 
ments ; and it was upon this slender connection 
with the subject that the whole charter referred 
itself to the committee of (; Inland navigation 



ANNO 1837. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



25 



and internal improvement;" to take its place 
as a proviso to a bill entitled, i{ To repeal the 
State tax, and to continue the improvements 
of the State by raili o'ads and canals;" and 
to be no further indicated in the title to that 
act than what could be found under the adden 
dum of that vague and flexible generality, 
" other purposes _," usually added to point atten 
tion to something not worth a specification. 

Having mastered the first step the one of 
greatest difficulty, if there is truth in the prov 
erb. the remainder of the proceeding was easy 
and rapid, the bill, with its proviso, being re 
ported, read a first, second, and third time, 
passed the House sent to the Senate ; read a 
first, second, and third time there, and passed 
sent to the Governor and approved, and made 
a law of the land : and all in as little time as it 
usually requires to make an act for changing 
the name of a man or a county. To add to its 
titles to infamy, the repeal of the State tax 
which it assumed to make, took the air of a 
bamboozle, the tax being a temporary imposi 
tion, and to expire within a few days upon its 
own limitation. The distribution of the bonus 
took the aspect of a bribe to the people, being 
piddled out in driblets to the inhabitants of the 
counties : and, to stain the bill with the last 
suspicion, a strong lobby force from Philadel 
phia hung over its progress, and cheered it along 
with the affection and solicitude of parents for 
their offspring. Every circumstance of its 
enactment announced corruption bribery in 
the members who passed the act, and an at 
tempt to bribe the people by distributing the 
bonus among them : and the outburst of indig 
nation throughout the State was vehement and 
universal. People met in masses to condemn 
the act, demand its repeal, to denounce the 
members who voted for it, and to call for inves 
tigation into the manner in which it passed. 
Of course, the legislature which passed it was 
in no haste to respond to these demands ; but 
their successors were different. An election 
intervened; great changes of members took 
place ; two-thirds of the new legislature de 
manded investigation, and resolved to have it. 
A committee was appointed, with the usual 
ample powers, and sat the usual length of time, 
and worked with the usual indefatigability, and 
made the usual voluminous report ; and with 
the usual " lame and impotent conclusion." A 



mass of pregnant circumstances were collected, 
covering the whole case with black suspicion : 
but direct bribery was proved upon no one. 
Probably, the case of the Yazoo fraud is to be 
the last, as it was the first, in which a succeed 
ing general assembly has fully and unqualifiedly 
condemned its predecessor for corruption. 

The charter thus obtained was accepted: 
and, without the change of form or substance 
in any particular, the old bank moved on as if 
nothing had happened as if the Congress char 
ter was still in force as if a corporate institu 
tion and all its affairs could be shifted by stat 
ute from one foundation to another ; as if a 
transmigration of corporate existence could be 
operated by legislative enactment, and the debt 
ors, creditors, depositors, and stockholders in 
one bank changed, transformed, and constituted 
into debtors, creditors, depositors and stock 
holders in another. The illegality of the whole 
proceeding was as flagrant as it was corrupt 
as scandalous as it was notorious and could 
only find its motive in the consciousness of a 
condition in which detection adds infamy to 
ruin ; and in which no infamy, to be incurred, 
can exceed that from which escape is sought. 
And yet it was this broken and rotten institu 
tion this criminal committing crimes to escape 
from the detection of crimes this "counter 
feit presentment" of a defunct corporation this 
addendum to a Pennsylvania railroad this 
whited sepulchre filled with dead men's bones, 
thus bribed and smuggled through a local legis 
lature that was still able to set up for a power 
and a benefactor ! still able to influence federal 
legislation control other banks deceive mer 
chants and statesmen excite a popular current 
in its favor assume a guardianship over the 
public affairs, and actually dominate for months 
longer in the legislation and the business of the 
country. It is for the part she acted the 
dominating part in contriving the financial 
distress and the general suspension of the 
banks in 1837 the last one which has afflicted 
our country, that renders necessary and pro 
per this notice of her corrupt transit through 
the General Assembly of the State of Pennsyl- 



26 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



CHAPTER VII. 

EFFECTS OF THE SUSPENSION: GENERAL DE 
RANGEMENT OF BUSINESS: SUPPEESSION AND 
RIDICULE OF THE SPECIE CURRENCY: SUB 
MISSION OF THE PEOPLE: CALL OF CONGRESS. 

A GREAT disturbance of course took place in 
the business of the country, from the stoppage 
of the banks. Their agreement to receive each 
others' notes made these notes the sole currency 
of the country. It was a miserable substitute 
for gold and silver, falling far below these 
metals when measured against them, and very 
unequal to each other in different parts of the 
country. Those of the interior, and of the 
west, being unfit for payments in the great 
commercial Atlantic cities, were far below the 
standard of the notes of those cities, and suf 
fered a heavy loss from difference of exchange, 
as it was called (although it was only the differ 
ence of depreciation,) in all remittances to those 
cities : to which points the great payments 
tended. All this difference was considered a 
loss, and charged upon the mismanagement of 
the public affairs by the administration, although 
the clear effect of geographical position. Specie 
disappeared as a currency, being systematically 
suppressed. It became an article of merchan 
dise, bought and sold like any other marketable 
commodity ; and especially bought in quantities 
for exportation. Even metallic change disap 
peared, down to the lowest subdivision of the 
dollar. Its place was supplied by every con 
ceivable variety of individual and corporation 
tickets issued by some from a feeling of neces 
sity ; by others, as a means of small gains ; by 
many, politically, as a means of exciting odium 
against the administration for having destroyed 
the currency. Fictitious and burlesque notes 
were issued with caricatures and grotesque pic 
tures and devices, and reproachful sentences, 
entitled the " better currency : " and exhibited 
every where to excite contempt. They were 
sent in derision to all the friends of the specie 
circular, especially to him who had the credit 
(not untruly) of having been its prime mover 
most of them plentifully sprinkled over with 
taunting expressions to give them a personal 
application : such as " This is what you have 
brought the country to :" " the end of the ex 



periment : " " the gold humbug exploded :" " ia 
this what was promised us ? " " behold the ef 
fects of tampering with the currency." The 
presidential mansion was infested, and almost 
polluted with these missives, usually made the 
cover of some vulgar taunt. Even gold and 
silver could not escape the attempted degrada 
tion copper, brass, tin, iron pieces being struck 
in imitation of gold and silver coins made ridi 
culous by figures and devices, usually the whole 
hog, and inscribed with taunting and reproach 
ful expressions. Immense sums were expended 
in these derisory manufactures, extensively 
carried on, and universally distributed j and re 
duced to a system as a branch of party warfare, 
and intended to act on the thoughtless and 
ignorant through appeals to their eyes and 
passions. Nor were such means alone resorted 
to to inflame the iw&ltitude against the adminis 
tration. The opposition press teemed with in 
flammatory publications. The President and his 
friends were held up as great state criminals, 
ruthlessly destroying the property of the peo 
ple, and meriting punishment even death. 
Nor did these publications appear in thought 
less or obscure papers only, but in some of the 
most weighty and influential of the bank party. 
Take, for example, this paragraph from a lead 
ing paper in the city of New York : 

" We would put it directly to each and all of 
our readers, whether it becomes this great peo 
ple, quietly and tamely to submit to any and 
every degree of lawless oppression which their 
rulers may inflict, merely because resistance 
may involve us in trouble and expose those who 
resist, to censure ? We are very certain their 
reply will be, ' No, but at what point is "resist 
ance to commence ?" is not the evil of resist 
ance greater "than the evil of submission?" 7 
We answer promptly, that resistance on the 
part of a free people, if they would preserve 
their freedom, should always commence when 
ever it is made plain and palpable that there 
has been a deliberate violation of their rights ; 
and whatever temporary evils may result from 
such resistance, it can never be so great or so 
dangerous to our institutions, as a blind sub 
mission to a most manifest act of oppression 
and tyranny. And now, we would ask of all 
what shadow of right, what plea of expe 
diency, what constitutional or legal justification 
can MARTIN VAN BUREN offer to the people of 
the United States, for having brought upon them 
all their present difficulties by a continuance of 
the specie circular, after two-thirds of their 
representatives had declared their solemn con 
victions that it was injurious to the country 



ANNO 1837. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



27 



and should be repealed ? Most assuredly, none, 
and we unhesitatingly say, that it is a more 
high-handed measure of tyranny than that 
which cost Charles the 1st his crown and his 
head more illegal and unconstitutional than 
the act of the British ministry which caused the 
patriots of the revolution to destroy the tea in 
the harbor of Boston and one which calls more 
loudly for resistance than any act of Great 
Britain which led to the Declaration of Inde 
pendence." 

Taken by surprise in the deprivation of its 
revenues, specie denied it by the banks which 
held its gold and silver, the federal government 
could only do as others did, and pay out de 
preciated paper. Had the event been foreseen 
by the government, it might have been provided 
against, and much specie saved. It was now too 
late to enter into a contest with the banks, they 
in possession of the money, and the suspension 
organized and established. They would only ren 
der their own notes : the government could only 
pay in that which it received. Depreciated paper 
was their only medium of payment ; and every 
such payment (only received from a feeling of 
duresse) brought resentment, reproach, indigna 
tion, loss of popularity to the administration ; 
and loud calls for the re-establishment of the 
National Bank, whose notes had always been 
equal to specie, and were then contrived to be 
kept far above the level of those of other sus 
pended banks. Thus the administration found 
itself, in the second month of its existence, 
struggling with that most critical of all govern 
ment embarrassments deranged finances, and 
depreciated currency ; and its funds dropping 
off every day. Defections were incessant, and 
by masses, and sometimes by whole States : and 
all on account of these vile payments in de 
preciated paper. Take a single example. The 
State of Tennessee had sent numerous volunteers 
to the Florida Indian war. There were several 
thousands of them, and came from thirty differ 
ent counties, requiring payments to be made 
through a large part of the State, and to some 
member of almost every family in it. The pay 
master, Col. Adam Duncan Steuart, had treas 
ury drafts on the Nashville deposit banks for 
the money to make the payments. They de 
livered their own notes, and these far below par 
even twenty per cent, below those of the so- 
tailed Bank of the United States, which the 
policy of the suspension required to be kept m 



trong contrast with those of the government de- 
josit banks. The loss on each payment was 
great one dollar in every five. Even patriotism 
;ould not stand it. The deposit banks and their 
notes were execrated : the Bank of the United 
States and its notes were called for. It was the 
hildren of Israel wailing for the fleshpots of 
Egypt. Discontent, from individual became 
general, extending from persons to masses. The 
State took the infection. From being one oi 
;he firmest and foremost of the democratic 
States, Tennessee fell off from her party, and 
went into opposition. At the next election she 
showed a majority of 20,000 against her old 
friends ; and that in the lifetime of General 
Jackson ; and contrary to what it would have 

n if his foresight had been seconded. He 
foresaw the consequences of paying out this 
depreciated paper. The paymaster had fore 
seen them, and before drawing a dollar from the 
banks he went to General Jackson for his advice. 
This energetic man, then aged, and dying, and 
retired to his beloved hermitage, but all head 
and nerve to the last, and scorning to see the 
government capitulate to insurgent banks, 
acted up to his character. He advised the pay 
master to proceed to Washington and ask for 
solid money for the gold and silver which was 
then lying in the western land offices. He went ; 
but being a military subordinate, he only ap 
plied according to the rules of subordina 
tion, through the channels of official inter 
course : and was denied the hard money, wanted 
for payments on debenture bonds and officers 
of the government. He did not go to Mr. Van 
Buren, as General Jackson intended he should 
do. He did not feel himself authorized to go 
beyond official routine. It was in the recess oi 
Congress, and I was not in Washington to go to 
the President in his place (as I should instantly 
have done) ; and, returning without the desired 
orders, the payments were made, through a storm 
of imprecations, in this loathsome trash : and 
Tennessee was lost. And so it was, in more or 
less degree, throughout the Union. The first 
object of the suspension had been accomplished 
a political revolt against the administration. 

Miserable as was the currency which the 
government was obliged to use, it was yet ID 
the still more miserable condition of not having 
enough of it ! The deposits with the States had 
absorbed two sums of near ten millions each : 



28 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



two more sums of equal amount were demand- 
able in the course of the year. Financial em 
barrassment, and general stagnation of business, 
diminished the current receipts from lands and 
customs : an absolute deficit that horror, and 
shame, and mortal test of governments showed 
itself ahead. An extraordinary session of Con 
gress became a necessity, inexorable to any con 
trivance of the administration: and, on the 15th 
day of May -just five days after the suspension 
in the principal cities the proclamation was 
issued for its assembling: to take place on the 
first Monday of the ensuing September. It was 
a mortifying concession to imperative circum 
stances ; and the more so as it had just been re 
fused to the grand committee of Fifty demand 
ing it in the imposing name of that great meet 
ing in the city of New York. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

EXTRA SESSION: MESSAGE, AND RECOMMENDA- 
TIONS. 

THE first session of the twenty-fifth Congress, 
convened upon the proclamation of the Presi 
dent, to meet an extraordinary occasion, met on 
the first Monday in September, and consisted 
of the following members : 

SENATE. 

NEW HAMPSHIRE Henry Hubbard and 
Franklin Pierce. 

MAINE John Ruggles and Ruel Williams. 

VERMONT Samuel Prentiss and Benjamin 
Swift. 

MASSACHUSETTS Daniel Webster and John 
Davis. 

RHODE ISLAND Nehemiah R. Knight and 
Asher Robbins. 

CONNECTICUT John M. Niles and Perry 
Smith. 

NEW YORK Silas Wright and Nathaniel P. 
Talhnadge. 

NEW JERSEY Garret D. Wall and Samuel 
L. Southard. 

DELAWARE Richard H. Bayard and Thomas 
Clayton. 

PENNSYLVANIA James Buchanan and Sam 
uel McKean. 

MARYLAND Joseph Kent and John S 
Spence. 

VIRGINIA William C. Rives and William 
II. Roane. 



NORTH CAROLINA Bedford Brown and Rob- 
ert Strange. 

SOUTH CAROLINA John C. Calhoun and 
Wm. Campbell Preston. 

GEORGIA John P. King and Alfred Cuth- 
bert. 

ALABAMA Wm. Rufus King and Clement C 
Clay. 

MISSISSIPPI John Black and Robert J, 
Walker. 

LOUISIANA Robert C. Nicholas and Alexan 
der Mouton. 

TENNESSEE Hugh L. White and Felix 
urundy. 

KENTUCKY Henry Clay and John Critten- 
den. 

ARKANSAS Ambrose H. Sevier and William 
S. Fulton. 

MISSOURI Thomas H. Benton and Lewis F. 
Linn. 

ILLINOIS Richard M. Young and John M. 
Robinson. 

INDIANA Oliver H. Smith and John Tipton. 

OHIO William Allen and Thomas Morris. 

MICHIGAN Lucius Lyon and John Norvell. 

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES. 

MAINE George Evans, John Fairfield, Tim 
othy J. Carter, F. 0. J. Smith, Thomas Davee, 
Jonathan Cilley, Joseph C. Noyes, Hugh J. 
Anderson. 

NEW HAMPSHIRE Samuel Cushman, James 
Farrington, Charles G. Atherton, Joseph Weeks, 
Jared W. Williams. 

MASSACHUSETTS Richard Fletcher, Stephen 
C. Phillips, Caleb Gushing, Wm. Parmenter, 
Levi Lincoln, George Grinnell, jr., George N. 
Briggs, Wm. B. Calhoun, Nathaniel B. Bordcn, 
John Q. Adams, John Reed, Abbott Lawrence, 
Wm. S. Hastings. 

RHODE ISLAND Robert B. Cranston, Joseph 
L. Tillinghast. 

CONNECTICUT Isaac Toucey, Samuel Ing;- 
ham, Elisha Haley, Thomas T. Whittlesey, 
Launcelot Phelps, Orrin Holt. 

VERMONT Hiland Hall, William Slade, He- 
man Allen, Isaac Fletcher, Horace Everett. 

NEW YORK Thomas B. Jackson, Abraham 
Vanderveer, C. C. Cambreleng, Ely Moore, 
Edward Curtis, Ogden Hoffman, Gouverneur 
Kemble, Obadiah Titus, Nathaniel Jones, John 
C. Broadhead, Zadoc Pratt, Robert McClel 
land, Henry Vail, Albert Gallup, John I, 
DeGraff, David Russell, John Palmer, James 
B. Spencer, John Edwards, Arphaxad Loomis, 
Henry A. Foster, Abraham P. Grant, Isaac H. 
Bronson, John IL Prentiss, Amasa J. Parker, 
John C. Clark, Andrew D. W. Bruyn, Hiram 
Gray, William Taylor, Bennett Bicknell, Wil 
liam H. Noble, Samuel Birdsall, Mark H. Sib- 
ley, John T. Andrews, Timothy Childs, Wil 
liam Patterson, Luther C. Peck, Richard P. 
Marvin, Millard Fillmore, Charles F. Mitchell. 
NEW JERSEY John B. Aycrigg, John P. B 



ANNO 1837. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



29 



Maxwell, William Halstead, Jos. F. Randolph, 
Charles G. Stratton, Thomas Jones Yorke. 

PENNSYLVANIA Lemuel Paynter, John Ser 
geant, George W. Toland. Charles Naylor, Ed 
ward Davies, David Potts, Edward Darlington, 
Jacob Fry, jr., Matthias Morris, David D. Wag- 
ener, Edward B. Hubley, Henry A. Muhlen- 
berg, Luther Reilly, Henry Logan, Daniel 
Sheffer, Chas. McClure, Wm. W. Potter, David 
Petriken, Robert H. Hammond, Samuel W. 
Morris, Charles Ogle, John Klingensmith, An 
drew Buchanan, T. M. T. McKennan, Richard 
Biddle, William Beatty, Thomas Henry, Arnold 
Plumer. 

DELAWARE John J. Milligan. 

MARYLAND John Dennis, James A. Pearce, 
J. T. H. Worthington, Benjamin C. Howard, 
Isaac McKim, William Cost Johnson, Francis 
Thomas, Daniel Jenifer. 

VIRGINIA Henry A. Wise, Francis Mallory, 
John Robertson, Charles F. Mercer, John Talia- 
ferro, R. T. M. Hunter, James Garland, Francis 

E. Rives, W alter Coles, George C. Dromgoole, 
James W. Bouldin, John M. Patton, James M. 
Mason, Isaac S. Pennybacker, Andrew Beirne, 
Archibald Stuart, John W. Jones, Robert 
Craig, Geo. W. Hopkins, Joseph Johnson, Wm. 
S. Morgan. 

NORTH CAROLINA Jesse A. Bynum, Edward 
D. Stanley, Charles Shepard, Micajah T. Haw 
kins, James McKay, Edmund Deberry, Abra 
ham Rencher, William Montgomery, Augustine 
H. Shepherd, James Graham, Henry Connor, 
Lewis Williams, Samuel T. Sawyer. 

SOUTH CAROLINA H. S. Legare, Waddy 
Thompson, Francis W. Pickens, W. K. Clowney, 

F. H. Elmore, John K. Griffin, R. B. Smith. 
John Campbell, John P. Richardson. 

GEORGIA Thomas Glascock, S. F. Cleveland, 
Scaton Grantland, Charles E. Haynes, Hopkins 
Holsey, Jabez Jackson, Geo. W. Owens, Geo. 
W. B. Townes, W. C. Dawson. 

TENNESSEE Wm. B. Carter, A. A. McClel 
land, Joseph Williams, (one vacancy,) H. L. 
Turney, Wm. B. Campbell, John Bell, Abraham 
P. Maury, James K. Polk, Ebenezer J. Shields, 
Richard Cheatham, John W. Crockett, Christo 
pher H Williams 

KEN rucKY John L. Murray, Edward Rum- 
sey, Sherrod Williams, Joseph R. Underwood, 
James Harlan, John Calhoun, John Pope, Wm. 
J. Graves, John White, Richard Hawes, Rich 
ard II. Menifee, John Chambers, Wm. W. 
South;ate. 

OHIO Alexander Duncan, Taylor Webster, 
Patrick G. Goode, Thomas Corwin, Thomas L. 
Hamer, Calvary Morris, Wm. K. Bond, J. 
Ridgeway, John Chaney, Samson Mason, J. 
Alexander, jr., Alexander Harper, D. P. Lead- 
better, Wm. H. Hunter, John W. Allen, Elisha 
Whittlesey, A. W. Loomis, Matthias Shepler, 
Daniel Kilgore. 

ALABAMA Francis S. Lyon, Dixon H. Lewis, 
Joab Lawler, Reuben Chapman, J. L. Martin. 



INDIANA Ratliff Boon, John Ewing, William 
Graham, George H. Dunn, James Rariden, Wil 
liam Herrod, Albert S. White. 

ILLINOIS A. W. Snyder. Zadoc Casey, Wm. 
L. May. 

LOUISIANA Henry Johnson, Eleazer W. Rip- 
ley, Rice Garland. 

MISSISSIPPI John F. H. Claiborne, S. EL 
Gholson. 

ARKANSAS Archibald Yell. 

MISSOURI Albert G. Harrison, John Miller. 

MICHIGAN Isaac E. Crary. 

FLORIDA Charles Downing. 

WISCONSIN George W. Jones. 

In these ample lists, both of the Senate and 
of the House, will be discovered a succession of 
eminent names many which had then achieved 
eminence, others to achieve it: and, besides 
those which captivate regard by splendid abil 
ity, a still larger number of those less brilliant, 
equally respectable, and often more useful 
members, whose business talent performs the 
work of the body, and who in England are well 
called, the working members. Of these numer 
ous members, as well the brilliant as the useful, 
it would be invidious to particularize part with 
out enumerating the whole ; and that would 
require a reproduction of the greater part of the 
list of each House. Four only can be named, 
and they entitled to that distinction from tho 
station attained, or to be attained by them: 
Mr. John Quincy Adams, who had been pres 
ident; Messrs. James K. Polk, Millard Fill- 
more and Franklin Pierce, who became x presi- 
dents. In my long service I have not seen a 
more able Congress ; and it is only necessary to 
read over the names, and to possess some 
knowledge of our public men, to be struck with 
the number of names which would come under 
the description of useful or brilliant members. 

The election of speaker was the first business 
of the House; and Mr. James K. Polk and Mr. 
John Bell, both of Tennessee, being put in 
nomination, Mr. Polk received 11C votes; and 
was elected Mr. Bell receiving 103. Mr. Wa.- 
ter S. Franklin was elected clerk. 

The message was delivered upon receiving 
notice of the organization of the two Houses ; 
and, with temperance and firmness, it met all 
the exigencies of the occasion. That specie order 
which had been the subject of so much denun 
ciation, the imputed cause of the suspension, 
and the revocation of which was demanded with 
so much pertinacity and such imposing demon- 



30 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW 



stration. far from being given up was com 
mended for the good effects it had produced; 
and the determination expressed not to inter 
fere with its operation. In relation to that 
decried measure the message said : 

" Of my own duties under the existing laws, 
when the banks suspended specie payments, I 
could not doubt. Directions were immediately 
given to prevent the reception into the Treasury 
of any thing but gold and silver, or its equivalent; 
and every practicable arrangement was made to 
preserve the public faith, by similar or equivalent 
payments to the public creditors. The revenue 
from lands had been for some time substantially 
so collected, under the order issued by the direc 
tions of my predecessor. The effects of that 
order had been so salutary, and its forecast in 
regard to the increasing insecurity of bank paper 
had become so apparent, that, even before the 
catastrophe, I had resolved not to interfere with 
its operation. Congress is now to decide whether 
the revenue shall continue to be so collected, or 
not." 

This was explicit, and showed that all at 
tempts to operate upon the President at that 
point, and to coerce the revocation of a meas 
ure which he deemed salutary, had totally failed. 
The next great object of the party which had 
contrived the suspension and organized the dis 
tress, was to extort the re-establishment of the 
Bank of the United States ; and here again was 
an equal failure to operate upon the firmness of 
the President. He reiterated his former objec 
tions to such an institution not merely to the 
particular one which had been tried but to any 
one in any form, and declared his former con 
victions to be strengthened by recent events. 
Thus : 

" We have seen for nearly half a century, that 
those who advocate a national bank, by 'what 
ever motive they may be influenced, constitute 
a portion of our community too numerous to 
allow us to hope for an early abandonment of 
their favorite plan. On the other hand, they 
must indeed form an erroneous estimate of the 
intelligence and temper of the American people, 
who suppose that they have continued, on slight 
or insufficient grounds, their persevering opposi 
tion to such an institution ; or that they can be 
induced by pecuniary pressure, or by any other 
combination of circumstances, to surrender prin 
ciples they have so long and so inflexibly maintain 
ed. My own views of the subject are unchanged. 
They have been repeatedly and unreservedly an 
nounced to my fellow-citizens, who, with full 
knowledge of them, conferred upon me the two 
highest offices of the government. On the last 



of these occasions. I felt it due to the people to 
apprise them distinctly, that, in the event of my 
election, I would not be able to co-operate in 
the re-establishment of a national bank. To 
these sentiments, I have now only to add the 
expression of an increased conviction, that tho 
re-establishment of such a bank, in any form, 
whilst it would not accomplish the beneficial 
purpose promised by its advocates, would 
impair the rightful supremacy of the popular 
will ; injure the character and diminish the in 
fluence of our political system ; and bring once 
more into existence a concentrated moneyed 
power, hostile to the spirit, and threatening the 
permanency, of our republican institutions." 



Having noticed these two gi^At points of pres 
sure upon him, and thrown them off with equal 
strength and decorum, he went forward to a 
new point the connection of the federal govern 
ment with any bank of issue in any form, either 
as a depository of its moneys, or in the use of 
its notes ; and recommended a total and per 
petual dissolution of the connection. This was 
a new point of policy, long meditated by some, 
but now first brought forward for legislative 
action, and cogently recommended to Congress 
for its adoption. The message, referring to the 
recent failure of the banks, took advantage of it 
to say : 

" Unforeseen in the organization of the govern 
ment, and forced on the Treasury by early ne 
cessities, the practice of employing banks, was. 
in truth, from the beginning, more a measure of 1 
emergency than of sound policy. When we 
started into existence as a nation, in addition to 
the burdens of the new government, we assumed 
all the large, but honorable load, of debt which 
was the price of our liberty ; but we hesitated 
to weigh down the infant industry of the coun 
try by resorting to adequate taxation for the 
necessary revenue. The facilities of banks, in 
return for the privileges they acquired, were 
promptly offered, and perhaps too readily re 
ceived, by an embarrassed treasury. During 
the long continuance of a national debt, and the 
intervening difficulties of a foreign war, the con 
nection was continued from motives of conveni 
ence ; but these causes have long since passed 
away. We have no emergencies that make banks 
necessary to aid the wants of the Treasury ; we 
have no load of national debt to provide for, and 
we have on actual deposit a large surplus. No 
public interest, therefore, now requires the 
renewal of a connection that circumstances have 
dissolved. The complete organization of our 
government, the abundance of our resources, the 
general harmony which prevails between the 
different States, and with foreign powers, all en 
able us now to select the system most consistent 



A.NNO 1837. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



31 



with the constitution, and most conducive to the 
public welfare." 

This wise recommendation laid the founda 
tion for the Independent Treasury a measure 
opposed with unwonted violence at the time, 
but vindicated as well by experience as recom 
mended by wisdom ; and now universally concur 
red in constituting an era in our financial his 
tory, and reflecting distinctive credit on Mr. Van 
Buren's administration. But he did not stop at 
proposing a dissolution of governmental con 
nection with these institutions ; he went further, 
and proposed to make them safer for the com 
munity, and more amenable to the laws of the 
land. These institutions exercised the privilege 
of stopping payment, qualified by the gentle 
name of suspension, when they judged a condi 
tion of the country existed making it expedient 
to do so. Three of these general suspensions 
had taken place in the last quarter of a century, 
presenting an evil entirely too large for the 
remedy of individual suits against the delinquent 
banks ; and requiring the strong arm of a gen 
eral and authoritative proceeding. This could 
only be found in subjecting them to the process 
of bankruptcy ; and this the message boldly re 
commended. It was the first recommendation 
of the kind, and deserves to be commemorated 
for its novelty and boldness, and its undoubted 
efficiency, if adopted. This is the recommenda 
tion: 

" In the mean time, it is our duty to provide 
all the remedies against a depreciated paper 
currency which the constitution enables us to 
afford. The Treasury Department, on several 
former occasions, has suggested the propriety 
and importance of a uniform law concerning 
bankruptcies of corporations, and other bankers. 
Through the instrumentality of such a law, a 
salutary check may doubtless be imposed on 
the issues of paper money, and an effectual 
remedy given to the citizen, in a way at once 
equal in all parts of the Union, and fully autho 
rized by the constitution." 

A bankrupt law for banks! That was the 
remedy. Besides its efficacy in preventing fu 
ture suspensions, it would be a remedy for the 
actual one. The day fixed for the act to take 
effect would be the day for resuming payments, 
or going into liquidation. It would be the day 
of honesty or death to these corporations ; and 
between these two alternatives even the most 



refractory bank would choose the former, if 
able to do so. 

The banks of the District of Columbia, and 
their currency, being under the jurisdiction of 
Congress, admitted a direct remedy in its own 
legislation, both for the fact of their suspension 
and the evil of the small notes which they 
issued. The forfeiture of the charter, where the 
resumption did not take place in a limited time, 
and penalties on the issue of the small notes, 
were the appropriate remedies ; and, as such 
were recommended to Congress. 

There the President not only met and con 
fronted the evils of the actual suspension as 
they stood, but went further, and provided 
against the recurrence of such evils thereafter, 
in four cardinal recommendations : 1, never to 
have another national bank ; 2, never to receive 
bank notes again in payment of federal dues ; 
3, never to use the banks again for depositories 
of the public moneys ; 4, to apply the process 
of bankruptcy to all future defaulting banks. 
These were strong recommendations, all founded 
in a sense of justice to the public, and called for 
by the supremacy of the government, if it 
meant to maintain its supremacy ; but recom 
mendations running deep into the pride and in 
terests of a powerful class, and well calculated 
to inflame still higher the formidable combina 
tion already arrayed against the President, and 
to extend it to all that should support him. 

The immediate cause for convoking the extra 
ordinary session the approaching deficit in the 
revenue was frankly stated, and the remedv 
as frankly proposed. Six millions of dollars 
was the estimated amount; and to provide it 
neither loans nor taxes were proposed, but the 
retention of the fourth instalment of the deposit 
to be made with the States, and a temporary 
issue of treasury notes to supply the deficiency 
until the incoming revenue should replenish the 
treasury. The following was that recommenda 
tion: 

"It is not proposed to procure the required 
amount by loans or increased taxation. There 
are now in the treasury nine millions three 
hundred and sixty-seven thousand two hundred 
and fourteen dollars, directed by the Act of the 
23d of June, 1836, to be deposited with the 
States in October next. This sum, if so depos 
ited, will be subject, under the law, to be re 
called, if needed, to defray existing appropria 
tions ; and, as it is now evident that the whole, 



32 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



or the principal part of it, will be wanted for 
that purpose, it appears most proper that the 
deposits should be withheld. Until the amount 
can be collected from the banks, treasury notes 
may be temporarily issued, to be gradually re 
deemed as it is received." 

** Six millions of treasury notes only were re 
quired, and from this small amount required, it 
is easy to see how readily an adequate amount 
could have been secured from the deposit 
banks, if the administration had foreseen a 
month or two beforehand that the suspension 
was to take place. An issue of treasury notes, 
being an imitation of the exchequer bill issues 
of the British government, which had been the 
facile and noiseless way of swamping that gov 
ernment in bottomless debt, was repugnant to 
the policy of this writer, and opposed by him : 
but of this hereafter. The third instalment of 
the deposit, as it was called, had been received 
by the States received in depreciated paper, 
and the fourth demanded in the same. A de 
posit demanded ! and claimed as a debt ! that 
is to say : the word " deposit " used in the act 
idmitted to be both by Congress and the States 
a fraud and a trick, and distribution the 
thing intended and done. Seldom has it hap 
pened that so gross a fraud, and one, too, in 
tended to cheat the constitution, has been so 
promptly acknowledged by the high parties 
perpetrating it. But of this also hereafter. 

The decorum and reserve of a State paper 
would not allow the President to expatiate 
upon the enormity of the suspension which had 
been contrived, nor to discriminate between the 
honest and solvent banks which had been taken 
by surprise and swept off in a current which 
they could not resist, and the insolvent or crim 
inal class, which contrived the catastrophe and 
exulted in its success. He could only hint at 
the discrimination, and, while recommending 
the bankrupt process for one class, to express 
his belief that with all the honest and solvent 
institutions the suspension would be temporary, 
and that they would seize the earliest moment 
which the conduct of others would permit, to 
vindicate their integrity and ability by return 
ing to specie payments. 



CHAPTER IX. 

ATTACKS ON THE MESSAGE : TREASURY NOTES 

UNDER the first two of our Presidents, 
Washington, and the first Mr. Adams, tho 
course of the British Parliament was followed 
in answering the address of the President, as the 
course of the sovereign was followed in deliver 
ing it. The Sovereign delivered his address in 
person to the two assembled Houses, and each 
answered it : our two first Presidents did the 
same, and the Houses answered. The purport 
of the answer was always to express a concur 
rence, or non-concurrence with the general 
policy of the government as thus authentically 
exposed ; and the privilege of answering the 
address laid open the policy of the government 
to the fullest discussion. The effect of the 
practice was to lay open the state of the 
country, and the public policy, to the fullest dis 
cussion ; and. in the character of the answer 
to decide the question of accord or disaccord 
of support or opposition between the repre 
sentative and the executive branches of the 
government. The change from the address 
delivered in person, with its answer, to the 
message sent by the private secretary, and no 
answer, was introduced by Mr. Jefferson, and 
considered a reform ; but it was questioned at 
the time, whether any good would come of it. 
and whether that would not be done irregularly, 
in the course of the debates, which otherwise 
would have been done regularly in the discussion 
of the address. The administration policy would 
be sure to be attacked, and irregularly, in the 
course of business, if the spirit of opposition 
should not be allowed full indulgence in a 
general and regular discussion. The attacks 
would come, and many of Mr. Jefferson's 
friends thought it better they should come at 
once, and occupy the first week or two of the ses 
sion, than to be scattered through the whole ses 
sion and mixed up with all its business. But the 
change was made, and has stood, and now any 
bill or motion is laid hold of, to hang a speech 
upon, against the measures or policy of an 
administration. This was signally the case at 
this extra session, in relation to Mr. Van 
Buren's policy. He had staked himself too 



ANNO 1837. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



33 



decisively against too large a combination of 
interests to expect moderation or justice from 
his opponents ; and he received none. Seldom 
has any President been visited with more 
violent and general assaults than he received, 
almost every opposition speaker assailing some 
part of the message. One of the number, Mr. 
Caleb Gushing, of Massachusetts, made it a 
business to reply to the whole document, for 
mally and elaborately, under two and thirty 
distinct heads the number of points in the 
mariner's compass : each head bearing a caption 
to indicate its point : and in that speech any 
one that chooses, can find in a condensed form, 
and convenient for reading, all the points of ac 
cusation against the democratic policy from the 
beginning of the government down to that day. 

Mr. Clay and Mr. Webster assailed it for 
what it contained, and for what it did not for 
its specific recommendations, and for its omission 
to recommend measures which they deemed 
necessary. The specie payments the discon 
nection with banks the retention of the fourth 
instalment the bankrupt act against banks 
the brief issue of treasury notes ; all were con 
demned as measures improper in themselves 
and inadequate to the relief of the country: 
while, on the other hand, a national bank ap 
peared to them to be the proper and adequate 
remedy for the public evils. With them acted 
many able men : in the Senate, Bayard, of Del 
aware, Crittenden, of Kentucky, John Davis, 
of Massachusetts, Preston, of South Carolina. 
Southard, of New Jersey, Rives, of Virginia : 
in the House of Representatives, Mr. John 
Quincy Adams, Bell, of Tennessee, Richard 
Biddle, of Pennsylvania, Gushing, of Massachu 
setts, Fillmore, of New York, Henry Johnson, 
of Louisiana, Hunter and Mercer, of Virginia, 
John Pope, of Kentucky, John Sargeant, Un 
derwood of Kentucky, Lewis Williams, Wise. 
All these were speaking members, and in their 
diversity of talent displayed all the varieties of 
effective speaking close reasoning, sharp invec 
tive, impassioned declamation, rhetoric, logic. 

On the other hand was an equal array, both 
in number and speaking talent, on the other 
side, defending and supporting the recommenda 
tions of the President : in the Senate, Silas 
Wright, Grundy, John M. Niles, King, of 
Alabama, Strange, of North Carolina, Buchan 
an, Calhoun. Linn, of Missouri, Benton, Bed- 
VOL. II. 3 



ford Brown, of North Carolina, William Allen, 
of Ohio, John P. King, of Georgia, Walker, of 
Mississippi : in the House of Representatives, 
Cambreleng, of New York, Hamer, of Ohio ; 
Howard and Francis Thomas, of Maryland. 
McKay, of North Carolina, John M. Patton, 
Francis Pickens. 

The treasury note bill was one of the first 
measures on which the struggle took place. It 
was not a favorite with the whole body of the 
democracy, but the majority preferred a small 
issue of that paper, intended to operate, not as 
a currency, but as a ready means of borrowing 
money, and especially from small capitalists; 
and, therefore, preferable to a direct loan. It 
was opposed as a paper money bill in disguise, 
as germinating a new national debt, and as the 
easy mode of raising money, so ready to run 
into abuse from its very facility of use. The 
President had recommended the issue in gen 
eral terms : the Secretary of the Treasury had 
descended into detail, and proposed notes as 
low as twenty dollars, and without interest. 
The Senate's committee rejected that proposi 
tion, and reported a bill only for large notes 
none less than 100 dollars, and bearing interest j 
so as to be used for investment, nor, circulation. 
Mr. Webster assailed the Secretary's plan, say 
ing 

" He proposes, sir, to issue treasury notes of 
small denominations, down even as low as 
twenty dollars, not bearing interest, and re 
deemable at no fixed period ; they are to be re 
ceived in debts due to government, but are not 
otherwise to be paid until at some indefinite 
time there shall be a certain surplus in the 
treasury beyond what the Secretary may think 
its wants require. Now, sir, this is plain, au 
thentic, statutable paper money ; it is exactly a 
new emission of old continental. If the genius 
of the old confederation were now to rise up in 
the midst of us, he could not furnish us, from 
the abundant stores of his recollection, with a 
more perfect model of paper money. It carries 
no interest ; it has no fixed time of payment ; 
it is to circulate as currency, and it is to circu 
late on the credit of government alone, with no 
fixed period of redemption! If this be not 
paper money, pray, sir, what is it? And, sir, 
who expected this ? Wn expected that in the 
fifth year of the experiment for reforming the 
currency^ and bringing it to an absolute gold 
and silver circulation, the Treasury Department 
would be found recommending to us a regular 
emission of paper money? This, sir, is quite 
new in the history of this government ; it be 
longs to that of the confederation which has 



34 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



passed away. Since 1789, although we have 
issued treasury notes on sundry occasions, we 
have issued none like these j that is to say, we 
have issued none not bearing interest, intended 
for circulation, and with no fixed mode of re 
demption. I am glad, however, Mr. President, 
that the committee have not adopted the Secre 
tary's recommendation, and that they have re 
commended the issue of treasury notes of a de 
scription more conformable to the practice of 
the government." 

Mr. Benton, though opposed to the policy of 
issuing these notes, and preferring himself a 
direct loan in this case, yet defended the partic 
ular bill which had been brought in from the 
character and effects ascribed to it, and said : 

"He should not have risen in this debate, 
had it not been for the misapprehensions which 
seemed to pervade the minds of some senators 
as to the character of the bill. It is called by 
some a paper-money bill, and by others a bill 
to germinate a new national debt. These are 
serious imputations, and require to be answered, 
not by declamation and recrimination, but by 
facts and reasons, addressed to the candor and 
to the intelligence of an enlightened and patri 
otic community. 

" I dissent from the imputations on the char 
acter of the bill. I maintain that it is neither 
a paper-money bill, nor a bill to lay the founda 
tion for a new national debt ; and will briefly 
give my reasons for believing as I do on both 
points. 

" There are certainly two classes of treasury 
notes one for investment, and one for circula 
tion ; and both classes are known to our laws, 
and possess distinctive features, which define 
their respective characters, and confine them to 
their respective uses. 

"The notes for investment bear an interest 
sufficient to induce capitalists to exchange gold 
and silver for them, and to lay them by as a 
productive fund. This is their distinctive fea 
ture, but not the only one ; they possess other 
subsidiary qualities, such as transferability only 
by indorsement payable at a fixed time not 
re-issuable nor of small denomination and to 
be cancelled when paid. Notes of this class are, 
n fact, loan notes notes to raise loans on, by 
Celling them for hard money either immedi 
ately by the Secretary of the Treasury, or, 
secondarily, by the creditor of the government 
to whom they have been paid. In a word, they 
possess all the qualities which invite invest 
ment, and forbid and impede circulation. 

" The treasury notes for currency are distin 
guished by features and qualities the reverse of 
those which have been mentioned. They bear 
little or no interest. They are payable to bearer 
transferable by delivery re-issuable of low 
denominations and frequently reimbursable at 
the pleasure of the government. They are, in 



fact, paper money, and possess all the qualities 
which forbid investment, and invite to circula 
tion. The treasury notes of 1815 were of that 
character, except for the optional clause to ena 
ble the holder to fund them at the interest 
which commanded loans at seven per cent. 

" These are the distinctive features of the two 
classes of notes. Now try the committee's bill 
by the test of these qualities. It will be found 
that the notes which it authorizes belong to the 
first-named class ; that they are to bear an in 
terest, which may be six per cent. ; that they 
are transferable only by indorsement; that 
they are not re-issuable ; that they are to be 
paid at a day certain to wit. within one year ; 
that they are not to be issued of less denomina 
tion than one hundred dollars ; are to be can 
celled when taken up : and that the Secretary 
of the Treasury is expressly authorized to raise 
money upon them by loaning them. 

" These are the features and qualities of the 
notes to be issued, and they define and fix their 
character as notes to raise loans, and to be laid 
by as investments, and not as notes for cur 
rency, to be pushed into circulation by the 
power of the government ; and to add to the 
curse of the day by increasing the quantity of 
unconvertible paper money." 

Though yielding to an issue of these notes in 
this particular form, limited in size of the notes 
to one hundred dollars, yet Mr. Benton deemed 
it due to himself and the subject to enter a pro 
test against the policy of such issues, and to 
expose their dangerous tendency, both to slide 
into a paper currency, and to steal by a noise 
less march into the creation of public debt, and 
thus expressed himself: 

" I trust I have vindicated the bill from the 
stigma of being a paper currency bill, and from 
the imputation of being the first step towards 
the creation of a new national debt. I hope it 
is fully cleared from the odium of both these 
imputations. I will now say a few words on 
the policy of issuing treasury notes in time of 
peace, or even in time of war, until the ordinary 
resources of loans and taxes had been tried and 
exhausted. I am no friend to the issue of 
treasury notes of any kind. As loans, they are 
a disguised mode of borrowing, and easy to 
slide into a currency : as a currency, it is the 
most seductive, the most dangerous, and the 
most liable to abuse of all the descriptions of 
paper money. ' The stamping of paper (by 
government) is an operation so much easier 
than the laying of taxes, or of borrowing 
money, that a government in the habit of paper 
emissions would rarely fail, in any emergency, 
to indulge itself too far in the employment of 
that resource, to avoid as much as possible one 
less auspicious to present popularity.' So said 
General Hamilton ; and Jefferson, Madison 



ANNO 1837. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



35 



Macon, Randolph, and all the fathers of the 
republican church, concurred with him. These 
sagacious statesmen were shy of this facile and 
seductive resource, ' so liable to abuse, and so 
certain of being abused.' They held it inadmis 
sible to recur to it in time of peace, and that it 
could only be thought of amidst the exigencies 
and perils of war, and that after exhausting the 
direct and responsible alternative of loans and 
taxes. Bred in the school of these great men, 
[ came here at this session to oppose, at all 
risks, an issue of treasury notes. I preferred a 
direct loan, and that for many and cogent rea 
sons. There is clear authority to borrow in the 
constitution; but, to find authority to issue 
these notes, we must enter the field of con 
structive powers. To borrow, is to do a re 
sponsible act ; it is to incur certain accounta 
bility to the constituent, and heavy censure if 
it cannot be justified ; to issue these notes, is to 
do an act which few consider of, which takes 
but little hold of the public mind, which few 
condemn and some encourage, because it in 
creases the quantum of what is vainly called 
money. Loans are limited by the capacity, at 
least, of one side to borrow, and of the other to 
lend : the issue of these notes has no limit but 
the will of the makers, and the supply of lamp 
black and rags. The continental bills of the 
Revolution, and the assignats of France, should 
furnish some instructive lessons on this head. 
Direct loans are always voluntary on the part 
of the lender ; treasury note loans may be a 
forced borrowing from the government creditor 
as much so as if the bayonet were put to his 
breast ; for necessity has no law, and the neces 
sitous claimant must take what is tendered, 
whether with or without interest whether ten 
or fifty per cent, below par. I distrust, dislike, 
and would fain eschew, this treasury note re- 
~-;urce. I prefer the direct loans of 1820-'21. 
1 could only bring myself to acquiesce in this 
measure when it was urged that there was not 
time to carry a loan through its forms; nor 
even then could I consent to it. until every fea 
ture of a currency character had been eradicated 
from the face of the bill." 

The bill passed the Senate by a general vote, 
only Messrs. Clay, Crittenden, Preston, South 
ard, and Spence of Maryland, voting against it. 
In the House of Representatives it encountered 
a more strenuous resistance, and was subjected 
to some trials which showed the dangerous pro 
clivity of these notes to slide from the founda 
tion of investment into the slippery path of cur 
rency. Several motions were made to reduce 
their size to make them as low as $25 ; and 
tha: failing, to reduce them to $50; which suc 
ceeded. The interest was struck at in a motion 
to reduce it to a nominal amount ; and this mo 
tion, like that for reducing the minimum size to 



$25, received a large support some ninety 
votes. The motion to reduce to $50 was carried 
by a majority of forty. Returning to the Senate 
with this amendment, Mr. Benton moved to 
restore the $100 limit, and intimated his inten 
tion, if it was not done, of withholding his sup 
port from the bill declaring that nothing but 
the immediate wants of the Treasury, and the 
lack of 'time to raise the money by a direct loan 
as declared by the Secretary of the Treasury, 
could have brought him to vote for treasury 
notes in any shape. Mr. Clay opposed the whole 
scheme as a government bank in disguise, but 
supported Mr. Benton's motion as being adverse 
to that design. He said : 

" He had been all along opposed to this mea 
sure, and he saw nothing now to change that 
opinion. Mr. C. would have been glad to aid 
the wants of the Treasury, but thought it might 
have been done better by suspending the action 
of many appropriations not so indispensably 
necessary, rather than by resorting to a loan. 
Reduction, economy, retrenchment, had Iveu re 
commended by the President, and why not ihen 
pursued? Mr. C.'s chief objection, however, 
was, that these notes were mere post notes, only 
differing from bank notes of that kind in giving 
the Secretary a power of fixing the interest as 
he pleases. 

It is, said Mr. C., a government bank, issuing 
government bank notes ; an experiment to set 
up a government bank. It is, in point of fact, 
an incipient bank. Now, if government has the 
power to issue bank notes, and so to form in 
directly and covertly a bank, how is it that it 
has not the power to establish a national bank? 
What difference is there between a great govern 
ment bank, with Mr. Woodbury as the great 
cashier, and a bank composed of a -corporation 
of private citizens ? What difference is there, 
except that the latter is better and safer, and 
more stable, and more free from political influ 
ences, and more rational and more republican 1 
An attack is made at Washington upon all the 
banks of the country, when we have at least one 
hundred millions of bank paper in circulation. 
At such a time, a time too of peace, instead of 
aid, we denounce them, decry them, seek to ruin 
them, and begin to issue paper in opposition to 
them ! You resort to paper, which you profess 
to put down ; you resort to a bank, which you 
pretend to decry and to denounce ; you resort 
to a government paper currency, after having 
exclaimed against every currency except that of 
gold and silver ! Mr. C. said he should vote for 
Mr. Benton's amendment, as far as it went to 
prevent the creation of a government bank and a 
government currency." 

Mr. Webster also supported the motion of 
Mr. Benton, saying : 



THIRTY YEARS' VIKTV. 



" He would not be unwilling to give his sup 
port to the bill, as a loan, and that only a tem 
porary loan. He was, however, utterly opposed 
to every modification of the measure which went 
to stamp npon it the character of a government 
currency. All past experience showed that such 
a currency would depreciate; that it will and 
must depreciate. He should vote for the amend 
ment, inasmuch as $100 bills were less likely to 
get into common circulation than $50 bills. His 
objection was against the old continental money 
in any shape or in any disguise, and he would 
therefore vote for the amendment." 

The motion was lost by a vote of 16 to 25, 
the yeas and nays being : 

YEAS Messrs. Allen, Benton, Clay, of Ken 
tucky, Clayton, Kent, King, of Georgia, KcKean, 
Pierce, Rives, Bobbins, Smith, of Connecticut, 
Southard, Spence, Tipton, Webster, White 16. 

NAYS Messrs. Buchanan, Clay, of Alabama, 
Crittenden, Fulton, Grundy, Hubbard, King, of 
Alabama, Knight, Linn, Lyon, Morris, Nicholas, 
Niles, Norvell, Roane, Robinson, Smith, of Indi 
ana, Strange, Swift, Talmadge, Walker, Wil 
liams, Wall, Wright, Young 25. 



CHAPTER X. 

RETENTION OF THE FOURTH DEPOSIT INSTAL 
MENT. 

THE deposit with the States had only reached 
its second instalment when the deposit banks, 
unable to stand a continued quarterly drain of 
near ten millions to the quarter, gave np the 
effort and closed their doors. The first instal 
ment had been delivered the first of January, in 
specie, or its equivalent ; the second in April, 
also in valid money ; the third one demandable 
on the first of June, was accepted by the States 
in depreciated paper : and they were very willing 
to receive the fourth instalment in the same 
way. It had cost the States nothing, was not 
likely to be called back by the federal govern 
ment, and was all clear gains to those who took 
it as a deposit and held it as a donation. But 
the Federal Treasury needed it also ; and like 
wise needed ten millions more of that amount 
which had already been " deposited " with the 
States ; and which " deposit " was made and ac 
cepted under a statute which required it to be 
paid back whenever the wants of the Treasury 
required it. That want had now come, and the 



event showed the delusion and the cheat of the 
bill under which a distribution had been made 
in the name of a deposit. The idea of restitu 
tion entered no one's head! neither of the 
government to demand it, nor of the States to 
render back. What had been delivered, waa 
gone ! that was a clear case ; and reclamation, 
or rendition, even of the smallest part, or at the 
most remote period, was not dreamed of. Bui 
there was a portion behind another instalment 
of ten millions deliverable out of the " sur 
plus " on the first day of October : but there 
was no surplus : on the contrary a deficit : and 
the retention of this sum would seem to be a 
matter of course with the government, only re 
quiring the form of an act to release the obliga 
tion for the delivery. It was recommended by 
the President, counted upon in the treasury 
estimates, and its retention the condition on 
which the amount of treasury notes was limited 
to ten millions of dollars. A bill was reported for 
the purpose, in the mildest form, not to repeal 
but to postpone the clause ; and the reception 
which it met, though finally successful, should bo 
an eternal admonition to the federal government 
never to have any money transaction with its 
members a transaction in which the members 
become the masters, and the devourers of the 
head. The finance committee of the Senate had 
brought in a bill to repeal the obligation to de 
posit this fourth instalment ; and from the be 
ginning it encountered a serious resistance. Mr. 
Webster led the way, saying : 

" We are to consider that this money, accord 
ing to the provisions of the existing law, is to 
go equally among all the States, and among all 
the people; and the wants of the Treasury 
must be supplied, if supplies be necessary, 
equally by all the people. It is not a question, 
therefore, whether some shall have money, and 
others shall make good the deficiency. All 
partake in the distribution, and all will contri 
bute to the supply. So that it is a mere ques 
tion of convenience, and, in my opinion, it is 
decidedly most convenient, on all accounts, that 
this instalment should follow its present desti 
nation, and the necessities of the Treasury be 
provided for by other means." 

Mr. Preston opposed the repealing bill, prin 
cipally on the ground that many of the States 
had already appropriated this money; that ia 
to say, had undertaken public works on the 
strength of it ; and would suffer more injury 
from not receiving it than the Federal Treasury 



ANNO 1837. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



37 



would suffer from otherwise supplying its place. 
Mr. Crittenden opposed the bill on the same 
ground. Kentucky, he said, had made provision 
for the expenditure of the money, and relied 
upon it, and could not expect the law to be 
lightly rescinded, or broken, on the faith of 
which she had anticipated its use. Other 
senators treated the deposit act as a contract, 
which the United States was bound to comply 
with by delivering all the instalments. 

In the progress of the bill Mr. Buchanan 
proposed an amendment, the effect of which 
would be to change the essential character of 
the so called, deposit act, and convert it into a 
real distribution measure. By the terms of the 
act, it was the duty of the Secretary of the 
Treasury to call upon the States for a return 
of the deposit when needed by the Federal 
Treasury : Mr. Buchanan proposed to release 
the Secretary from this duty, and devolve it 
upon Congress, by enacting that the three in 
stalments already delivered, should remain on 
deposit with the States until called for by Con 
gress. Mr. Niles saw the evil of the proposition, 
and thus opposed it : 

" He must ask for the yeas and nays on the 
amendment, and was sorry it had been offered. 
If it was to be fully considered, it would renew 
the debate on the deposit act, as it went to 
change the essential principles and terms of that 
act. A majority of those who voted for that 
a?t, about w r hich there had been so much said, 
and so much misrepresentation, had professed 
to regard it and he could not doubt that at the 
time they did so regard it as simply a deposit 
law ; as merely changing the place of deposit 
from the banks to the States, so far as related 
to the surplus. The money was still to be in 
the Treasury, and liable to be drawn out, with 
certain limitations and restrictions, by the ordi 
nary appropriation laws, without the direct ac 
tion of Congress. The amendment, if adopted, 
will change the principles of the deposit act, 
and the condition of the money deposited with 
the States under it. It will no longer be a de 
posit ; it will not be in the Treasury, even in 
point of legal effect or form : the deposit will 
be changed to a loan, or, perhaps more properly, 
a grant to the States. The rights of the United 
States will be changed to a mere claim, like that 
against the late Bank of the United States; and 
a claim without any means to enforce it. We 
were charged, at the time, of making a distribu 
tion of the public revenue to the States, in the 
disguise and form of a deposit ; and this amend 
ment, it appeared to him, would be a very bold 
step towards confirming the truth of that charge. 
He deemed the amendment an important one, 



and highly objectionable ; but he saw that the 
Senate were prepared to adopt it, and he would 
not pursue the discussion, but content himself 
with repeating his request for the ayes and 
noes on the question." 

Mr. Buchanan expressed his belief that the 
substitution of Congress for the Secretary of the 
Treasury, would make no difference in the nature 
of the fund : and that remark of his, if understood 
as sarcasm, was undoubtedly true ; for the deposit 
was intended as a distribution by its authors 
from the beginning, and this proposed substitu 
tion was only taking a step, and an effectual one, 
to make it so : for it was not to be expected 
that a Congress would ever be found to call for 
this money from the States, which they were so 
eager to give to the States. The proposition of 
Mr. Buchanan was carried by a large majority 
33 to 12 all the opponents of the adminis 
tration, and a division of its friends, voting for 
it. Thus, the whole principle, and the whole 
argument on which the deposit act had been 
passed, was reversed. It was passed to make 
the State treasuries the Treasury pro tanto of 
the United States to substitute the States for 
the banks, for the keeping of this surplus until 
it was wanted and it was placed within the 
call of a federal executive officer that it might 
be had for the public service when needed. All 
this was reversed. The recall of the money was 
taken from the federal executive, and referred 
to the federal legislative department to the 
Congress, composed of members representing 
the States that is to say, from the payee to 
the pay or, and was a virtual relinquishment of 
the payment. And thus the deposit was made 
a mockery and a cheat ; and that by those who 
passed it. 

In the House of Representatives the disposi 
tion to treat the deposit as a contract, and to 
compel the government to deliver the money 
(although it would be compelled to raise by 
extraordinary means w r hat was denominated a 
surplus), was still stronger than in the Senate, 
and gave rise to a protracted struggle, long and 
doubtful in its issue. Mr. Gushing laid down 
the doctrine of contract, and thus argued it : 

" The clauses of the deposit act, which apper 
tain to the present question, seem to me to pos 
sess all the features of a contract. It provides 
that the whole surplus revenue of the United 
States, beyond a certain sum, which may be in 
the Treasury on a certain day, sha'l be deposited 



38 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



with the several States; which deposit the 
States are to keep safely, and to pay back to the 
United States, whenever the same shall be 
called for by the Secretary of the Treasury in a 
prescribed time and mode, and on the happening 
of a given contingency. Here, it seems to me, 
is a contract in honor ; and, so far as there can 
be a contract between the United States and 
the several States, a contract in law ; there 
being reciprocal engagements, for a valuable 
consideration, on both sides. It is, at any rate. 
a quasi-contract. They who impugn this view 
of the question argue on the supposition that 
the act, performed or to be performed by the 
United States, is an inchoate gift of money 
to the States. Not so. It is a contract of 
deposit ; and that contract is consummated, and 
made perfect, on the formal reception of any in 
stalment of the deposit by the States. Now, 
entertaining this view of the transaction, I am 
asked by the administration to come forward 
and break this contract. True, a contract made 
by the government of the United States cannot 
be enforced in law. Does that make it either 
honest or honorable for the United States to 
take advantage of its power and violate its 
pledged faith ? I refuse to participate in any 
such breach of faith. But further. The admin 
istration solicits Congress to step in between 
the United States and the States as a volunteer, 
and to violate a contract, as the means of help 
ing the administration out of difficulties, into 
which its own madness and folly have wilfully 
sunk it, and which press equally upon the gov 
ernment and the people. The object of the 
measure is to relieve the Secretary of the Trea 
sury from the responsibility of acting in this 
matter as he has the power to do. Let him act. 
I will not go out of my way to interpose in 
this between the Executive and the several 
States, until the administration appeals to me 
in the right spirit. This it has not done. The 
Executive comes to us with a new doctrine, 
which is echoed by his friends in this House, 
namely, that the American government is not 
to exert itself for the relief of the American 
people. Very well. If this be your policy, I, 
as representing the people, will not exert myself 
for the relief of your administration." 

Such was the chicanery, unworthy of a pie- 
poudre court with which a statute of the 
federal Congress, stamped with every word, in 
vested with every form, hung with every attri 
bute, to define it a deposit not even a loan 
was to be pettifogged into a gift ! and a contract 
for a gift ! and the federal Treasury required to 
stand and deliver ! and all that, not in a low 
lavr court, where attorneys congregate, but in 
the high national legislature, where candor 
and firmness alone should appear. History 
would be faithless to her mission if she did 



not mark such conduct for reprobation, and in< 
voke a public judgment upon it. 

After a prolonged contest the vote was taken, 
and the bill carried, but by the smallest majority 
119 to 117 ; a difference of two votes, which 
was only a difference of one member. Bni 
even that was a delusive victory. It was im 
mediately seen that more than one had voted 
with the majority, not for the purpose of pass 
ing the bill, but to gain the privilege of a major 
ity member to move for a reconsideration. Mr 
Pickens, of South Carolina, immediately made 
that motion, and it was carried by a majority oi 
70! Mr. Pickens then proposed an amend 
ment, which was to substitute definite for in 
definite postponement to postpone to a day 
certain instead of the pleasure of Congress : and 
the first day of January, 1839, was the day 
proposed ; and that without reference to the 
condition of the Treasury (which might not then 
have any surplus), for the transfer of this fourth 
instalment of a deposit to the States. The vote 
being taken on this proposed amendment, it was 
carried by a majority of 40 : and that amend 
ment being concurred in by the Senate, the bill 
in that form became a law, and a virtual legali 
zation of the deposit into a donation of forty 
millions to the States. And this was done by 
the votes of members who had voted for a de 
posit with the States; because a donation to 
the States was unconstitutional. The three in 
stalments already delivered were not to be re 
called until Congress should so order; and it 
was quite certain that it never would so order. 
At the same time the nominal discretion of 
Congress over the deposit of the remainder was 
denied, and the duty of the Secretary made pe 
remptory to deliver it in the brief space of one 
year and a quarter from that time. But events 
frustrated that order. The Treasury was in no 
condition on the first day of January, 1839, to 
deliver that amount of money. It was penniless 
itself. The compromise act of 1833, making 
periodical reductions in the tariff', until the 
whole duty was reduced to an ad valorem oi 
twenty per cent., had nearly run its course, and 
left the Treasury in the condition of a borrower, 
instead of that of a donor or lender of money. 
This fourth instalment could not be delivered at 
the time appointed, nor subsequently ; and was 
finally relinquished, the States retaining the 
amount they had received : which was so much 



ANNO 1837. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



39 



slear gain through the legislative fraud of 
making a distribution under the name of a de 
posit. 

This was the end of one of the distribution 
schemes which had so long afflicted and dis 
turbed Congress and the country. Those 
schemes began now to be known by their con 
sequences evil to those they were intended to 
benefit, and of no service to those whose popu 
larity they were to augment. To the States the 
deposit proved to be an evil, in the contentions 
and combinations to which their disposition gave 
rise in the general assemblies in the objects to 
which they were applied and the futility of the 
help which they afforded. Popularity hunting, 
on a national scale, gave birth to the schemes in 
Congress: the same spirit, on a smaller and 
local scale, took them up in the States. All 
sorts of plans were proposed for the employ 
ment of the money, and combinations more or 
less interested, or designing, generally carried the 
point in the universal scramble. In some States 
a pro rata division of the money, per capite, was 
made ; and the distributive share of each indi 
vidual being but a few shillings, was received 
with contempt by some, and rejeoted with scorn 
by others. In other States it was divided among 
the counties, and gave rise to disjointed under 
takings of no general benefit. Others, again, 
were stimulated by the unexpected acquisition 
of a large sum, to engage in large and premature 
works of internal improvement, embarrassing 
the State with debt, and commencing works 
which could not be finished. Other States 
again, looking upon the deposit act as a legis 
lative fraud to cover an unconstitutional and 
demoralizing distribution of public money to the 
people, refused for a long time to receive their 
proffered dividend, and passed resolutions of 
censure upon the authors of the act. And thus 
the whole policy worked out differently from 
what had been expected. The States and the 
people were not grateful for the favor: the 
authors of the act gained no presidential elec 
tion by it : and the gratifying fact became evi 
dent that the American people were not the de 
generate Romans, or the volatile Greeks, to be 
seduced with their own money to give their 
votes to men who lavished the public moneys 
Dii their wants or their pleasures in grain to 
feed them, or in shows and games to delight 
and amuse them. 



CHAPTER XI. 

INDEPENDENT TEEASUEY AND HAED MONET 
PAYMENTS. 

THESE were the crowning measures of the ses 
sion, and of Mr. Van Buren's administration, 
not entirely consummated at that time, but partly, 
and the rest assured ; and constitute in fact an 
era in our financial history. They were the 
most strenuously contested measures of the ses 
sion, and made the issue completely between the 
hard money and the gaper money systems. 
They triumphed have maintained their su 
premacy ever since and vindicated their excel 
lence on trial. Vehemently opposed at the time, 
and the greatest evil predicted, opposition has 
died away, and given place to support ; and the 
predicted evils have been seen only in blessings. 
No attempt has been made to disturb these great 
measures since their final adoption, and it would 
seem that none need now be apprehended ; but 
the history of their adoption presents one of the 
most instructive lessons in our financial legisla 
tion, and must have its interest with future ages 
as well as with the present generation. The bills 
which were brought in for the purpose were 
clear in principle simple in detail : the govern 
ment to receive nothing but gold and silver for 
its revenues, and its own officers to keep it 
the Treasury being at the seat of government, 
with branches, or sub-treasuries at the principal 
points of collection and disbursement. And 
these treasuries to be real, not constructive 
strong buildings to hold the public moneys, and 
special officers to keep the keys. The capacious, 
strong-walled and well-guarded custom houses 
and mints, furnished in the great cities the 
rooms that were wanted : the Treasury building 
at Washington was ready, and in the right 
place. 

This proposed total separation of the federal 
government from all banks called at the time 
in the popular language of the day, the divorce 
of Bank and State naturally arrayed the whole 
bank power against it, from a feeling of interest; 
and all (or nearly so) acted in conjunction with 
the once dominant, and still potent, Bank of the 
United States. In the Senate, Mr. Webster 
headed one interest Mr. Rives, of Virginia, the 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



Other; and Mr. Calhoun, who had long acted 
with the opposition, now came back to the sup 
port of the democracy, and gave the aid without 
which these great measures of the session could 
not have been carried. His temperament re 
quired him to have a lead ; and it was readily 
yielded to him in the debate in all cases where 
he went with the recommendations of the mes 
sage ; and hence he appeared, in the debate on 
these measures, as the principal antagonist of 
Mr. Webster and Mr. Rives. 

The present attitude of Mr. Calhoun gave 
rise to some taunts in relation to his former 
support of a national bank, and on his present 
political associations, which gave him the oppor 
tunity to set himself right in relation to that 
institution and his support of it in 1816 and 
1834. In this vein Mr. Rives said : 

" It does seem to me, Mr. President, that this 
perpetual and gratuitous introduction of the 
Bank of the United States into this debate, 
with which it has no connection, as if to alarm 
the imaginations of grave senators, is but a poor 
evidence of the intrinsic strength of the gentle 
man's cause. Much has been said of argument 
ad captandum in the course of this discussion. 
I have heard none that can compare with this 
solemn stalking of the ghost of the Bank of the 
United States through this hall, to 'frighten 
senators from their propriety.' I am as much 
opposed to that institution as the gentleman or 
any one else is, or can be. I think I may say I 
have given some proofs of it. The gentleman him 
self acquits me of any design to favor the interest 
v*f that institution, while he says such is the 
necessary consequence of my proposition. The 
suggestion is advanced for eii'ect, and then re 
tracted in form. Whatever be the new-born 
zeal of the senator from South Carolina against 
the Bank of the United States, I flatter myself 
that I stand in a position that places me, at 
least, as much above suspicion of an undue lean 
ing in favor of that institution as the honorable 
gentleman. If I mistake not, it was the senator 
from South Carolina who introduced and sup 
ported the bill for the charter of the United 
States Bank in 1816; it was he, also, who 
brought in a bill in 1834, to extend the charter 
of that institution for a term of twelve years ; 
and none were more conspicuous than he in the 
well-remembered scenes of that day, in urging 
the restoration of the government deposits to 
this same institution." 

The reply of Mr. Calhoun to those taunts, 
which impeached his consistency a point at 
which he was always sensitive was quiet and 
ready, and the same that he had often been 



heard to express in common conversation. H* 
said: 

" In supporting the bank of 1816, I openly- 
declared that, as a question de noro, I would 
be decidedly against the bank, and would be the 
last to give it my support. I also stated that, 
in supporting the bank then, I yielded to the 
necessity of the case, growing out of the then ex 
isting and long-established connection between 
the government and the banking system. I took 
the ground, even at that early period, that so 
long as the connection existed, so long as the 
government received and paid away bank notes 
as money, they were bound to regulate their 
vaAe, and had no alternative but the establish 
ment of a national bank. I found the connec 
tion in existence and established before my time, 
and over which I could have no control. I 
yielded to the necessity, in order to correct the 
disordered state of the currency, which had 
fallen exclusively under the control of the 
States. I } r ielded to what I could not reverse, 
just as any member of the Senate now would, 
who might believe that Louisiana was unconsti 
tutionally admitted into the Union, but who 
would, nevertheless, feel compelled to vote to 
extend the laws to that State, as one of its 
members, on the ground that its admission was 
an act, whether constitutional or unconstitu 
tional, which he could not reverse. In 1834, I 
acted in conformity to the same principle, in 
proposing the renewal of the bank charter for a 
short period. My object, as expressly avowed, 
was to use the bank to break the connection be 
tween the government and the banking system 
gradually, in order to avert the catastrophe 
which has now befallen us, and which I then 
clearly perceived. But the connection, which I 
believed to be irreversible in 181 6, has now been 
broken by operation of law. It is now an open 
question. 1 feel myself free, for the first time, 
to choose my course on this important subject ; 
and, in opposing a bank, I act in conformity to 
principles which I have entertained ever since I 
have fully investigated the subject." 

Going on with his lead in support of the 
President's recommendations, Mr. Calhoun 
brought forward the proposition to discontinue 
the use of bank paper in the receipts and dis 
bursements of the federal government, and sup 
ported his motion as a measure as necessary to 
the welfare of the banks themselves as to the 
safety of the government. In this sense he 
said: 

" We have reached a new era with regard to 
these institutions. He who would judge of the 
future by the past, in reference to them, will be 
wholly mistaken. The year 1833 marks the 
commencement of this era. That extraordinary 
man who had the power of imprinting his own 



ANNO 1837. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



41 



feelings on the community, then commenced 
his hostile attacks, which have left such effects 
behind, that the war then commenced against 
the banks, I clearly see, will not terminate, un 
less there be a separation between them and 
the government, until one or the other tri 
umphs till the government becomes the bank, 
or the bank the government. In resisting their 
union, I act as the friend of both. I have, as I 
have said, no unkind feeling toward the banks. 
I am neither a bank man, nor an antitank man. 
I have had little connection with them. Many 
of my best friends, for whom I have the high 
est esteem, have a deep interest in their pros 
perity, and, as far as friendship or personal at 
tachment extends, my inclination would be 
strongly in their favor. But I stand up here as 
the representative of no particular interest. I 
look to the whole, and to the future, as well as 
the present ; and I shall steadily pursue that 
course which, under the most enlarged view, I 
believe to be my duty. In 1834 I saw the 
present crisis. I in vain raised a warning voice, 
and endeavored to avert it. I now see, with 
equal certainty, one far more portentous. If 
this struggle is to go on if the banks will in 
sist upon a reunion with the government, against 
the sense of a large and influential portion of 
the community and, above all, if they should 
succeed in effecting it a reflux flood will inev 
itably sweep away the whole system. A deep 
popular excitement is never without some rea 
son, and ought ever to be treated with respect ; 
and it is the part of wisdom to look timely into 
the cause, and correct it before the excitement 
ehall become so great as to demolish the object, 
with all its good and evil, against which it is 
directed." 

Mr. Rives treated the divorce of bank and 
State as the divorce of the government from 
the people, and said : 

"Much reliance, Mr. President, has been 
placed on the popular catch-word of divorcing 
the government from all connection with banks. 
Nothing is more delusive and treacherous than 
catch-words. How often has the revered name 
of liberty been invoked, in every quarter of the 
globe, and every uge of the world, to disguise 
and sanctify the most heartless despotisms. 
Let us beware that, in attempting to divorce 
the government from all connection with banks, 
we do not end with divorcing the government 
from the people. As long as the people shall 
be satisfied in their transactions with each 
other, with a sound convertible paper medium, 
with a due proportion of the precious metals 
forming the basis of that medium, and mingled 
in the current of circulation, why should the 
government reject altogether this currency of 
the people, in the operations of the public 
Treasury? If this currency be good enough 
for the masters it ought to* be so for the ser 



vants. If the government sternlv reject, for its 
uses, the general medium of excnange adopted 
by the community, is it not thereby isolated 
from the general wants and business of the 
country, in relation to this great concern of the 
currency? Do you not give it a separate, if 
not hostile, interest, and thus, in effect, produce 
a divorce between government and people ? a 
result, of all others, to be most deprecated in a 
republican system." 

Mr. Webster's main argument in favor of the 
re-establishment of the National Bank (which 
was the consummation he kept steadily in his 
eye) was, as a regulator of currency, and of the 
domestic exchanges. The answer to this was, 
that these arguments, now relied on as the 
main ones for the continuance of the institution, 
were not even thought of at its commencement 
that no such reasons were hinted at by Gen 
eral Hamilton and the advocates of the first 
bank that they were new-fangled, and had not 
been brought forward by others until after the 
paper system had deranged both currency and 
exchanges ; and that it was contradictory to 
look for the cure of the evil in the source of the 
evil. It was denied that the regulation of ex 
changes was a government concern, or that the 
federal government was created for any such 
purpose. The buying and selling of bills of 
exchange was a business pursuit a commercial 
business, open to any citizen or bank ; and the 
loss or profit was an individual, and not a gov 
ernment concern. It was denied that there 
was any derangement of currency in the only 
currency which the constitution recognized 
that of gold and silver. Whoever had this cur 
rency to be exchanged that is, given in ex 
change at one place for the same in another 
place now had the exchange effected on fair 
terms, and on the just commercial principle 
that of paying a difference equal to the freight 
and insurance of the money : and, on that prin 
ciple, gold was the best regulator of exchanges; 
for its small bulk and little weight in propor 
tion to its value, made it easy and cheap of 
transportation ; and brought down the exchange 
to the minimum cost of such transportation 
(even when necessary to be made), and to the 
uniformity of a permanent business. That was 
the principle of exchange ; but, ordinarily, there 
was no transportation in the case : the exchange 
dealer in one city had his correspondent in 
another: a letter often did the business. The 



THIRTY TEARS' VIEW. 



regulation of the currency required an under 
standing of the meaning of the term. As used 
by the friends of a National Bank, and referred 
to its action, the paper currency alone was in 
tended. The phrase had got into vogue since 
the paper currency had become predominant, 
and that is a currency not recognized by the 
constitution, but repudiated by it ; and one of 
its main objects was to prevent the future 
existence of that currency the evils of which 
its framers had seen and felt. Gold and silver 
was the only currency recognized by that in 
strument, and its regulation specially and exclu 
sively given to Congress, which had lately dis 
charged its duty in that particular, in regula 
ting the relative value of the two metals. The 
gold act of 1834 had made that regulation, cor 
recting the error of previous legislation, and 
had revived the circulation of gold, as an ordi 
nary currency, after a total disappearance of it 
under an erroneous valuation, for an entire gen 
eration. It was in full circulation when the 
combined stoppage of the banks again sup 
pressed it. That was the currency gold and 
silver, with the regulation of which Congress 
was not only intrusted, but charged : and this 
regulation included preservation. It must be 
saved before it can be regulated ; and to save it, 
it must be brought into the country and kept 
in it. The demand of the federal treasury 
could alone accomplish these objects. The 
quantity of specie required for the use of that 
treasury its large daily receipts and disburse 
ments all inexorably confined to hard money 
would create the demand for the precious 
metals which would command their presence, 
and that in sufficient quantity for the wants of the 
people as well as of the government. For the 
government does not consume what it collects 
does not melt up or hoard its revenue, or 
export it to foreign countries, but pays it out 
to the people ; and thus becomes the distributor 
of gold and silver among them. It is the great 
est paymaster in the country; and, while it 
pays in hard money, the people will be sure of 
a supply. We are taunted with the demand : 
" Wliere is the better currency ? " "We an 
swer : " Suppressed by the conspiracy of the 
banks ! " And this is the third time in the 
last twenty years in which paper money has 
suppressed specie, and now suppresses it: for 
this is a game (the war between gold and 



paper) in which the meanest and weakest is 
always the conqueror. The baser currency 
always displaces the better. Hard money 
needs support against paper, and that support 
can be given by us, by excluding paper money 
from all federal receipts and payments ; and con 
fining paper money to its own local and inferior 
orbit: and its regulation can be well accom 
plished by subjecting delinquent banks to the 
process of bankruptcy, and their small notes to 
suppression under a federal stamp duty. 

The distress of the country figured largely in 
the speeches of several members, but without 
finding much sympathy. That engine of opera 
ting upon the government and the people had 
been over-worked in the panic session of 1833-' 34, 
and was now a stale resource, and a crippled ma 
chine. The suspension appeared to the country to 
have been purposely contrived, and wantonly con 
tinued. There was now more gold and silver in 
the country than had ever been seen in it before 
four times as much as in 1832, when the Bank 
of the United States was in its palmy state, and 
was vaunted to have done so much for the cur 
rency. Twenty millions of silver was then its 
own estimate of the amount of that metal in the 
United States, and not a particle of gold in 
cluded in the estimate. Now the estimate of 
gold and silver was eighty millions ; and with 
this supply of the precious metals, and the de 
termination of all the sound banks to resume as 
soon as the Bank of the United States could be 
forced into resumption, or forced into open in 
solvency, so as to lose control over others, the 
suspension and embarrassment were obliged to 
be of brief continuance. Such were the argu 
ments of the friends of hard money. 

The divorce bill, as amended, passed the 
Senate, and though not acted upon in the House 
during this called session, yet received the im 
petus which soon carried it through, and gives 
it a right to be placed among the measures of 
that session. 



CHAPTEE XII. 

ATTEMPTED RESUMPTION OF SPECIE PAYMENTS. 

THE suspension of the banks commenced at New 
York, and took place on the morning of the 10th 



ANNO 1837. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



43 



of May : those of Philadelphia, headed by the Bank 
of the United States, closed their doors two days 
after, and merely in consequence, as they alleged, 
of the New York suspension ; and the Bank of the 
United States especially declared its wish and 
ability to have continued specie payments with 
out reserve, but felt it proper to follow the ex 
ample which had been set. All this was known 
to be a fiction at the time ; and the events were 
soon to come, to prove it to be so. As early as 
the 15th of August ensuing in less than one 
hundred days after the suspension the banks 
of New York took the initiatory steps towards 
resuming. A general meeting of the officers of 
the banks of the city took place, and appointed 
a committee to correspond with other banks to 
procure the appointment of delegates to agree 
upon a time of general resumption. In this 
meeting it was unanimously resolved : " That 
the banks of the several States be respectfully 
invited to appoint delegates to meet on the 
2~th day of November next, in the city of New 
York, for the purpose of conferring on the 
time when specie payments may be resumed 
with safety ; and on the measures necessary to 
effect that purpose" Three citizens, eminently 
respectable in themselves, and presidents of the 
leading institutions Messrs. Albert Gallatin, 
George Newbold, and Cornelius W. Lawrence 
were appointed a committee to correspond with 
other banks on the subject of the resolution. 
They did so ; and, leaving to each bank the 
privilege of sending as many delegates as it 
pleased, they warmly urged the importance of 
the occasion, and that the banks from each 
State should be represented in the proposed 
convention. There was a general concurrence 
in the invitation ; but the convention did not 
take place. One powerful interest, strong 
enough to paralyze the movement, refused to 
come into it. That interest was the Philadel 
phia banks, headed by the Bank of the United 
States ! So soon were fallacious pretensions 
exploded when put to the test. And the test 
in this case was not resumption itself, but only 
a meeting to confer upon a time when it would 
suit the general interest to resume. Even to 
unite in that conference was refused by this ar 
rogant interest, aifecting such a superiority over 
all other banks ; and pretending to have been 
only dragged into their condition by their ex 
ample. But a reason had to be given for this 



refusal, and it was and was worthy of the 
party; namely, that it was not proper to dc 
any thing in the business until after the ad 
journment of the extra session of Congress. 
That answer was a key to the movements in 
Congress to thwart the government plans, and 
to coerce a renewal of the United States Bank 
charter. After the termination of the session it 
will be seen that another reason for refusal was 
found. 



CHAPTER XIII. 

BANKRUPT ACT AGAINST BANKS. 

THIS was the stringent measure recommended 
by the President to cure the evil of bank sus 
pensions. Scattered through all the States of 
the Union, and only existing as local institu 
tions, the federal government could exercise no 
direct power over them ; and the impossibility 
of bringing the State legislatures to act in con 
cert, left the institutions to do as they pleased j 
or rather, left even the insolvent ones to do as 
they pleased; for these, dominating over the 
others, and governed by their own necessities, or 
designs, compelled the solvent banks, through 
panic or self-defence, to follow their exampla 
Three of these general suspensions had occurred 
in the last twenty years. The notes of these 
banks constituting the mass of the circulating 
medium, put the actual currency into the hands 
of these institutions; leaving the community 
helpless ; for it was not in the power of indi 
viduals to contend with associated corporations 
It was a reproach to the federal government to 
be unable to correct this state of things to see 
the currency of the constitution driven out of 
circulation, and out of the country ; and substi 
tuted by depreciated paper ; and the very evil 
produced which it was a main object of the con 
stitution to prevent. The framers of that instru 
ment were hard-money men. They had seen 
the evils of paper money, and intended to guard 
their posterity against what they themselves had 
suffered. They had done so, as they believed, 
in the prohibition upon the States to issue bills 
of credit ; and in the prohibition upon the States 
to make any thing but gold and silver a tender 
in discharge of debts. The invention of banks, 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



and their power over the community, had nulli 
fied this just and wise intention of the constitu 
tion ; and certainly it would be a reproach to 
that instrument if it was incapable of protecting 
itself against such enemies, at such an important 
point. Thus far it had been found so incapable ; 
but it was a question whether the fault was in 
the instrument, or in its administrators. There 
were many who believed it entirely to be the 
fault of the latter who believed that the con 
stitution had ample means of protection, within 
itself, against insolvent, or delinquent banks 
and that, all that was wanted was a will in the 
federal legislature to apply the remedy which 
the evil required. This remedy was the process 
of bankruptcy, under which a delinquent bank 
might be instantly stopped in its operations 
its circulation called in and paid off. as far as its 
assets would go itself closed up, and all power 
of further mischief immediately terminated. 
This remedy it was now proposed to apply. 
President Van Buren recommended it : he was 
the first President who had had the merit of 
doing so ; and all that was now wanted was a 
Congress to back him: and that was a great 
want ! one hard to supply. A powerful array, 
strongly combined, was on the other side, both 
moneyed and political. All the local banks 
were against it ; and they counted a thousand 
their stockholders myriads ; and many of 
their owners and debtors were in Congress: 
the (still so-called) Bank of the United States 
was against it: and its power and influence 
were still great : the whole political party op 
posed to the administration were against it, as 
well because opposition is always a necessity of 
the party out of power, as a means of getting in, 
as because in the actual circumstances of the 
present state of things opposition was essential 
to the success of the outside party. Mr. "Webster 
was the first to oppose the measure, and did so, 
seeming to question the right of Congress to 
apply the remedy rather than to question the 
expediency of it. He said : 

" We have seen the declaration of the President, 
in which he says that he refrains from suggesting 
any specific plan for the regulation of the exchan 
ges of the country, and for relieving mercantile em 
barrassments, or for interfering with the ordinary 
operation of foreign or domestic commerce ; and 
that he does this from a conviction that such 
measures are not within the constitutional pro 
vince of the general government j and yet he 



made a recommendation to Congress which 
appears to me to be very remarkable, and it ia 
of a measure which he thinks may prove a 
salutary remedy against a depreciated paper 
urrency. This measure is neither more nor 
less than a bankrupt law against corporations 
and other bankers. 

" Now, Mr. President, it is certainly true that 
the constitution authorizes Congress to establish 
uniform rules on the subject of bankruptcies ; 
but it is equally true, and abundantly manifest 
that this power was not granted with any refer- 
nee to currency questions. It is a general 
power a power to make uniform rules on the 
ubject. How is it possible that such a power 
can be fairly exercised by seizing on corpora 
tions and bankers, but excluding all the other 
usual subjects of bankrupt laws ! Besides, do 
such laws ordinarily extend to corporations at 
all 1 But suppose they might be so extended, 
by a bankrupt law enacted for the usual pur 
poses contemplated by such laws ; how can a 
law be defended, which embraces them and 
bankers alone ? I should like to hear what the 
learned gentleman at the head of the Judiciary 
Committee, to whom the subject is referred, has 
to say upon it. How does the President's sug 
gestion conform to his notions of the constitu 
tion? The object of bankrupt laws, sir, has no 
relation to currency. It is simply to distribute 
the effects of insolvent debtors among their 
creditors ; and I must say, it strikes me that it 
would be a great perversion of the power con 
ferred on Congress to exercise it upon corpora 
tions and bankers, with the leading and primary 
object of remedying a depreciated paper cur 
rency. 

" And this appears the more extraordinary, 
inasmuch as the President is of opinion that the 
general subject of the currency is not within 
our province. Bankruptcy, in its common and 
just meaning, is within our province. Currency, 
says the message, is not. But we have a bank 
ruptcy power in the constitution, and we will 
use this power, not for bankruptcy, indeed, but 
for currency. This, I confess, sir, appears to me 
to be the short statement of the matter. I would 
not do the message, or its author, any intentional 
injustice, nor create any apparent, where there 
was not a real inconsistency ; but I declare, in 
all sincerity, that I cannot reconcile the proposed 
use of the bankrupt power with those opinions 
of the message which respect the authority of 
Congress over the currency of the country." 

The right to use this remedy against bank 
rupt corporations was of course well considered 
by the President before he recommended it and 
also by the Secretary of the Treasury (Mr. 
Woodbury), bred to the bar, and since a justice 
of the Supreme Court of the United States, by 
I whom it had been several times recommended. 
Doubtless the remedy was sanctioned by the 



ANNO 1837. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



45 



whole cabinet before it became a subject of exe 
cutive recommendation. But the objections of 
Mr, Webster, though rather suggested than 
urged, and confined to the right without im 
peaching the expediency of the remedy, led to a 
full examination into the nature and objects of 
the laws of bankruptcy, in which the right to 
use them as proposed seemed to be fully vindi 
cated. But the measure was not then pressed 
t.o a vote ; and the occasion for the remedy hav 
ing soon passed away, and not recurring since, 
the question has not been revived. But the im 
portance of the remedy, and the possibility that 
it may be wanted at some future time, and the 
high purpose of showing that the constitution is 
not impotent at a point so vital, renders it pro 
per to present, in this View of the working of 
the government, the line of argument which was 
then satisfactory to its advocates : and this is 
done in the ensuing chapter. 



CHAPTER XIV. 



BANKRUPT ACT FOR BANKS : 
SPEECH. 



J. BENTON'S 



THE power of Congress to pass bankrupt laws 
is expressly given in our constitution, and given 
without limitation or qualification. It is the 
fourth in the number of the enumerated powers, 
and runs thus : " Congress shall have power to 
establish a uniform rule of naturalization, and 
uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies 
throughout the United States." This is a full 
and clear grant of power. Upon its face it admits 
of no question, and leaves Congress at full 
liberty to pass any kind of bankrupt laws they 
please, limited only by the condition, that what 
ever laws are passed, they are to be uniform in 
their operation throughout the United States. 
Upon the face of our own constitution there is 
no question of our right to pass a bankrupt law. 
limited to banks and bankers ; but the senator 
from Massachusetts [Mr. WEBSTER] and others 
who have spoken on the same side with him, 
must carry us to England, and conduct us 
through the labyrinth of English statute law, 
and through the chaos of English judicial de 
cisions, to learn what this word bankruptcies, 
m our constitution, is intended to signify. In 
this he, and they, are true to the habits of the 



legal profession those habits which, both in 
Great Britain and our America, have become a 
proverbial disqualification for the proper ex 
ercise of legislative duties. I know, Mr. Pres 
ident, that it is the fate of our lawyers and 
judges to have to run to British law books to 
find out the meaning of the phrases contained in 
our constitution ; but it is the business of the 
legislator, and of the statesman, to take a larger 
view to consider the difference between the 
political institutions of the two countries to 
ascend to first principles to know the causes 
of events and to judge how far what was suit 
able and beneficial to one might be prejudicial 
and inapplicable to the other. We stand here 
as legislators and statesmen, not as lawyers and 
judges ; we have a grant of power to execute 
not a statute to interpret ; and our first duty 
is to look to that grant, and see what it is ; and 
our next duty is to look over our country, and 
see whether there is any thing in it which re 
quires the exercise of that grant of power. This 
is what our President has done, and what we 
ought to do. He has looked into the constitu 
tion, and seen there an unlimited grant of power 
to pass uniform laws on the subject of bank 
ruptcies; and he has looked over the United 
States, and seen what he believes to be fit sub 
jects for the exercise of that power, namely, 
about a thousand banks in a state of bankruptcy, 
and no State possessed of authority to act be 
yond its own limits in remedying the evils of a 
mischief so vast and so frightful. Seeing these 
two things a power to act, and a subject matter 
requiring action the President has recom 
mended the action which the constitution per 
mits, and which the subject requires ; but the 
senator from Massachusetts has risen in his 
place, and called upon us to shift our view ; to 
transfer our contemplation from the constitu 
tion of the United States to the British statute 
book from actual bankruptcy among ourselves 
to historical bankruptcy in England; and to 
confine our legislation to the characteristics of 
the English model. 

As a general proposition, I lay it down that 
Congress is not confined, like jurists and judges, 
to the English statutory definitions, or the Nisi 
Prius or King's Bench construction of the 
phrases known to English legislation, and used 
in our constitution. Such a limitation would 
not only narrow us down to a mere lawyer's 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



view of a subject, but would limit us, in point 
uf time, to English precedents, as they stood at 
the adoption of our constitution, in the year 
1789. I protest against this absurdity, and con 
tend that we are to use our granted powers ac 
cording to the circumstances of our own coun 
try, and according to the genius of our republican 
institutions, and according to the progress of 
events and the expansion of light and knowledge 
among ourselves. If not, and if we are to be 
confined to the " usual objects," and the rt usual 
subjects," and the " usual purposes," of British 
legislation at the time of the adoption of our 
constitution, how could Congress ever make a 
law in relation to steamboats, or to railroad 
cars, both of which were unknown to British 
legislation in 1789 ; and therefore, according to 
the idea that would send us to England to find 
out the meaning of our constitution, would not 
fall within the limits of our legislative authority. 
Upon their face, the words of the constitution 
are sufficient to justify the President's recom 
mendation, even as understood by those who 
impugn that recommendation. The bankrupt 
clause is very peculiar in its phraseology, and 
the more strikingly so from its contrast with 
the phraseology of the naturalization clause, 
which is coupled with it. Mark this difference : 
there is to be a uniform rule of naturalization : 
there are to be uniform laws on the subject of 
bankruptcies. One is in the singular, the other 
in the plural ; one is to be a rule, the other are 
to be laws ; one acts on individuals, the other 
on the subject ; and it is bankruptcies that are, 
and not bankruptcy that is, to be the objects of 
these uniform laws. 

As a proposition, now limited to this particu 
lar case, I lay it down that we are not confined 
to the modern English acceptation of this term 
bankrupt ; for it is a term, not of English, but 
of Roman origin. It is a term of the civil law, 
and borrowed by the English from that code. 
They borrowed from Italy both the name and the 
purpose of the law ; and also the first objects to 
which the law was applicable. The English 
were borrowers of every thing connected with 
this code ; and it is absurd in us to borrow from 
a borrower to copy from a copyist when we 
have the original lender and the original text 
before us. Bancus and ruptus signifies a 
broken bench ; and the word broken is not 
metaphorical but literal, and is descriptive of 



the ancient method of cashiering an insolvent 
or fraudulent banker, by turning him out of the 
exchange or market place, and breaking the 
table bench to pieces on which he kept his money 
and transacted his business. The term bank 
rupt, then, in the civil law from which the Eng 
lish borrowed it, not only applied to bankers, but 
was confined to them ; and it is preposterous in 
us to limit ourselves to an English definition of 
a civil law term. 

Upon this exposition of our own constitution, 
and of the civil law derivation of this term 
bankrupt, I submit that the Congress of the 
United States is not limited to the English 
judicial or statutory acceptation of the term ; 
and so I finish the first point which I took 
in the argument. The next point is more 
comprehensive, and makes a direct issue with 
the proposition of the senator from Massa 
chusetts, [Mr. WEBSTER.] His proposition is, 
that we must confine our bankrupt legislation 
to the usual objects, the usual subjects, and the 
usual purposes of bankrupt laws in England ; 
and that currency (meaning paper money and 
shin-plasters of course), and banks, and bank 
ing, are not within the scope of that legislation. 
I take issue, sir. upon all these points, and am 
ready to go with the senator to England, and to 
contest them, one by one, on the evidences 01 
English history, of English statute law, and of 
English judicial decision. I say English ; for, 
although the senator did n,ot mention England, 
yet he could mean nothing else, in his reference 
to the usual objects, usual subjects, and usual 
purposes of bankrupt laws. He could mean 
nothing else. He must mean the English exam 
ples and the English practice, or nothing ; and 
he is not a person to speak, and mean nothing. 

Protesting against this voyage across the high 
seas, I nevertheless will make it, and will ask 
the senator on what act, out of the scores which 
Parliament has passed upon this subject, or on 
what period, out of the five hundred years that 
she has been legislating upon it, will he fix for 
his example ? Or, whether he will choose to 
view the whole together ; and out of the vast 
chaotic and heterogeneous mass, extract a 
general power which Parliament possesses, and 
which he proposes for our exemplar ? For my 
self, I am agreed to consider the question under 
the whole or under either of these aspects, and> 
relying on the goodness of the cause, expect a 



ANNO 1837. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



47 



safe deliverance from the contest, take it in any 
way. 

And first, as to the acts passed upon this 
subject; great is their number, and most dis 
similar their provisions. For the first two 
hundred years, these acts applied to none but 
aliens, and a single class of aliens, and only for 
a single act, that of flying the realm to avoid 
their creditors. Then they were made to apply 
to all debtors, whether natives or foreigners, 
engaged in trade or not, and took eifect for 
three acts : 1st, flying the realm ; 2d, keeping 
the house to avoid creditors ; 3d, taking sanc 
tuary in a church to avoid arrest. For upwards 
of two hundred years to be precise, for two 
hundred and twenty years bankruptcy was 
only treated criminally, and directed against 
those who would not face their creditors, or 
abide the laws of the land ; and the remedies 
against them were not civil, but criminal ; it 
was not a distribution of the eflectSj but cor 
poral punishment, to wit: imprisonment and 
outlawry.* The statute of Elizabeth was the 
first that confined the law to merchants and 
traders, took in the unfortunate as well as the 
criminal, extended the acts of bankruptcy to in 
ability as well as to disinclination to pay, dis 
criminated between innocent and fraudulent 
bankruptcy; and gave to creditors the remedial 
right to a distribution of effects. This statute 
opened the door to judicial construction, and the 
judges went to work to define by decisions, who 
were traders, and what acts constituted the 
fact, or showed an intent to delay or to defraud 
creditors. In making these decisions, the judges 
reached high enough to get hold of royal com 
panies, and low enough to get hold of shoe 
makers ; the latter upon the ground that they 
bought the leather out of which they made the 
shoes ; and they even had a most learned con 
sultation to decide whether a man who was 
a landlord for dogs, and bought dead horses for 
his four-legged boarders, and then sold the skins 
and bones of the horse carcases he had bought, 

Preamble to the act of 3tih of HENRY vin. 
' Whereas divers and sundry persons craftily obtained into 
their hands great substance of other men's goods, do suddenly 
flee to parts unknown, or keep their houses, not minding to 
pay or restore to any of their creditors, their debts and duties, 
but at their own wills and own pleasures consume the sub 
stance obtained by credit of other men fortheir own pleasures 
and delicate living, against all reason, equity, and good oon- 
cienoe. 



was not a trader within the meaning of the act ; 
and so subject to the statute of bankrupts. 
These decisions of the judges set the Parliament 
to work again to preclude judicial constructions 
by the precision, negatively and affirmatively, 
of legislative enactment. But, worse and worse ! 
Out of the frying-pan into the fire. The more 
legislation the more construction ; the more 
statutes Parliament made, the more numerous 
and the more various the judicial decisions; 
until, besides merchants and traders, near forty 
other descriptions of persons were included; and 
the catalogue of bankruptcy acts, innocent or 
fraudulent, is swelled to a length which requires 
whole pages to contain it. Among those who 
are now included by statutory enactment in 
England, leaving out the great classes compre 
hended under the names of merchants and 
traders, are bankers, brokers, factors, and scri 
veners ; insurers against perils by pea and land ; 
warehousemen, wharfingers, packers, builders, 
carpenters, shipwrights and victuallers ; keepers 
of inns, hotels, taverns and coffee-houses ; dyers, 
printers, bleachers, fullers, calendrers, sellers 
of cattle or sheep ; commission merchants and 
consignees ; and the agents of all these classes. 
These are the affirmative definitions of the 
classes liable to bankruptcy in England ; then 
come the negative; and among these are far 
mers, graziers, and common laborers for hire; 
the receivers general of the king's taxes, and 
members or subscribers to any incorporated 
companies established by charter of act of Par 
liament. And among these negative and affirm 
ative exclusions and inclusions, there are many 
classes which have repeatedly changed position, 
and found themselves successively in and out of 
the bankrupt code. Now, in all this mass of 
variant and contradictory legislation, what part 
of it will the senator from Massachusetts select 
for his model ? The improved, and approved 
parts, to be sure ! But here a barrier presents 
itself an impassable wall interposes a veto 
power intervenes. For it so happens that the 
improvements in the British bankrupt code, 
those parts of it which are considered best, and 
most worthy of our imitation, are of modern 
origin the creations of the last fifty years 
actually made since the date of our constitution ; 
and, therefore, not within the pale of its purview 
and meaning. Yes, sir, made since the estab 
lishment of our constitution, and, therefore, not 



43 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



to be included within its contemplation ; unless 
this doctrine of searching into British statutes 
for the meaning of our constitution, is to make 
us search forwards to the end of the British em 
pire, as well as search backwards to its begin 
ning. Fact is, that the actual bankrupt code of 
Great Britain the one that preserves all that 
is valuable, that consolidates all that is pre 
served, and improves all that is improvable, is an 
act of most recent date of the reign of George 
TV., and not yet a dozen years old. Here, then, 
in going back to England for a model, we are 
cut off from her improvements in the bankrupt 
code, and confined to take it as it stood under 
the reign of the Plantagenets, the Tudors, the 
Stuarts, and the earlier reigns of the Brunswick 
sovereigns. This should be a consideration, and 
sufficiently weighty to turn the scale in favor 
of looking to our own constitution alone for the 
extent and circumscription of our powers. 

But let us continue this discussion upon prin 
ciples of British example and British legislation. 
We must go to England for one of two things ; 
either for a case in point, to be found in some 
statute, or a general authority, to be extracted 
from a general practice. Take it either way, or 
both ways, and I am ready and able to vindicate, 
upon British precedents, our perfect right to en 
act a bankrupt law, limited in its application to 
banks and bankers. And first, for a case in 
point, that is to say, an English statute of bank 
ruptcy, limited to these lords of the purse- 
strings : we have it at once, in the first act ever 
passed on the subject the act of the 30th 
year of the reign of Edward III., against the 
Lombard Jews. Every body knows that these 
Jews were bankers, usually formed into compa 
nies, who, issuing from Venice, Milan, and other 
parts of Italy, spread over the south and west 
of Europe, during the middle ages ; and estab 
lished themselves in every country and city in 
which the dawn of reviving civilization, and the 
germ of returning industry, gave employment 
to money, and laid the foundation of credit. 
They came to London as early as the thirteenth 
century, and gave their name to a street which 
still retains it, as well as it still retains the par 
ticular occupation, and the peculiar reputation, 
which the Lombard Jews established for it. 
The first law against bankrupts ever passed in 
.England, was against the banking company com 
posed of these Jews, and confined exclusively to 



them. It remained in force two hundred years, 
without any alteration whatever, and was noth 
ing but the application of the law of their own 
country to these bankers in the country of their 
sojournment the Italian law, founded upon the 
civil law, and called in Italy banco rotto, bro 
ken bank. It is in direct reference to theso 
Jews, and this application of the exotic bank 
rupt law to them, that Sir Edward Coke, in his 
institutes, takes occasion to say that both the 
name and the wickedness of bankruptcy were 
of foreign origin, and had been brought into 
England from foreign parts. It was enacted 
under the reign of one of the most glorious of 
the English princes a reign as much distin 
guished for the beneficence of its civil adminis 
tration as for the splendor of its military achieve 
ments. This act of itself is a full answer to the 
whole objection taken by the senator from Mas 
sachusetts. It shows that, even in England, a 
bankrupt law has been confined to a single class 
of persons, and that class a banking company. 
And here I would be willing to close my speech 
upon a compromise a compromise founded in 
reason and reciprocity, and invested with the 
equitable mantle of a mutual concession. It is 
this : if we must follow English precedents, let 
us follow them chronologically and orderly. 
Let us begin at the beginning, and take them as 
they rise. Give me a bankrupt law for two 
hundred years against banks and bankers ; and. 
after that, make another for merchants and 
traders. 

The senator from Massachusetts [Mr. WEB 
STER] has emphatically demanded, how the 
bankrupt power could be fairly exercised by 
seizing on corporations and bankers, and ex 
cluding all the other usual subjects of bankrupt 
laws ? I answer, by following the example of 
that England to which he has conducted us ; 
by copying the act of the 30th of Edward 
III. ; by going back to that reign of heroism, 
patriotism, and wisdom ; that reign in which the 
monarch acquired as much glory from his do 
mestic policy as from his foreign conquests 
that reign in which the acquisition of dyers and 
weavers from Flanders, the observance of law 
and justice, and the encouragement given to ag 
riculture and manufactures, conferred more bene 
fit upon the kingdom, and more glory upon the 
king, than the splendid victories of Poictiers, 
Agincourt, and Cressy. 



ANNO 1837. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



49 



But the senator may not be willing to yield 
to this example, this case in point, drawn from 
his own fountain, and precisely up to the exi 
gency of the occasion. He may want something 
more ; and he shall have it. I will now take the 
question upon its broadest bottom and fullest 
merits. I will go to the question of general 
power the point of general authority exem 
plified by the general practice of the British Par 
liament, for five hundred years, over the whole 
subject of bankruptcy. I will try the question 
upon this basis ; and here I lay down the pro 
position, that this five hundred j^ears of parlia 
mentary legislation on bankruptcy establishes 
the point of full authority in the British Parlia 
ment to act as it pleased on the entire subject 
of bankruptcies. This is my proposition ; and, 
when it is proved, I shall claim from those who 
carry me to England for authority, the same 
amount of power over the subject which the 
British Parliament has been in the habit of ex 
ercising. Now, what is the extent of that 
power ? Happily for me, I, who have to speak, 
without any inclination for the task ; still more 
happily for those who have to hear me, perad- 
T venture without profit or pleasure ; happily for 
both parties, my proposition is already proved, 
partly by what I have previously advanced, and 
fully by what every senator knows. I have al 
ready shown the practice of Parliament upon 
this subject, that it has altered and changed, 
contracted and enlarged, put in and left out, 
abolished and created, precisely as it pleased. I 
have already shown, in my rapid view of Eng 
lish legislation on this subject, that the Parlia 
ment exercised plenary power and unlimited 
authority over every branch of the bankrupt 
question ; that it confined the action of the 
bankrupt laws to a single class of persons, or 
extended it to many classes ; that it was some 
times confined to foreigners, then applied to na 
tives, and that now it comprehends natives, 
aliens, denizens, and women ; that at one time 
all debtors were subject to it ; then none but 
merchants and traders ; and now, besides mer 
chants and traders, a long list of persons who 
have nothing to do with trade ; that at one time 
bankruptcy was treated criminally, and its ob 
ject punished corporeally, while now it is a re 
medial measure for the benefit of the creditors, 
and the relief of unfortunate debtors ; and that 
the acts of the debtor which may constitute him 

VOL. II. 



a bankrupt, have been enlarged from three or 
four glaring misdeeds, to so long a catalogue ol 
actions, divided into the heads of innocent and 
fraudulent ; constructive and positive ; inten 
tional and unintentional ; voluntary and forced ; 
that none but an attorney, with book in hand, 
can pretend to enumerate them. All this has 
been shown ; and, from all this, it is incontest 
able that Parliament can do just what it pleases 
on the subject ; and, therefore, our Congress, if 
referred to England for its powers, can do just 
what it pleases also. And thus, whether we go 
by the words of our own constitution, or by a 
particular example in England, or deduce a gen 
eral authority from the general practice of that 
country, the result is still the same : we have 
authority to limit, if we please, our bankrupt 
law to the single class of banks and bankers. 

The senator from Massachusetts [Mr. WEB 
STER] demands whether bankrupt laws ordina 
rily extend to corporations, meaning moneyed 
corporations. I am free to answer that, in point 
of fact, they do not. But why ? because they 
ought not ? or because these corporations have 
yet been powerful enough, or fortunate enough, 
to keep their necks out of that noose ? Cer 
tainly the latter. It is the power of these mo 
neyed corporations in England, and their good 
fortune in our America, which, enabling them to 
grasp all advantages on one hand, and to repulse 
all penalties on the other, has enabled them to 
obtain express statutory exemption from bank 
rupt liabilities in England ; and to escape, thus 
far, from similar liabilities in the United States. 
This, sir, is history, and not invective; it is 
fact, and not assertion ; and I will speedily re 
fresh the senator's memory, and bring him to 
recollect why it is, in point of fact, that bank 
rupt laws do not usually extend to these corpo 
rations. And, first, let us look to England, 
that great exemplar, whose evil examples we 
are so prompt, whose good ones we are so slow, 
to imitate. How stands this question of corpo 
ration unliability there ? By the judicial con 
struction of the statute of Elizabeth, the part 
ners in all incorporated companies were held 
subject to the bankrupt law ; and, under this 
construction, a commission of bankrupt was 
issued against Sir John Wolstenholme, a gen 
tleman of large fortune, who had advanced a sum 
of money on an adventure in the East India 
Company's trade. The issue of this commission 



50 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



was affirmed by the Court of King's Bench; 
but this happened to take place in the reign 
of Charles II. that reign during which so 
little is found worthy of imitation in the gov 
ernment of Great Britain and immediately two 
acts of Parliament were passed, one to annul 
the judgment of the Court of King's Bench in 
the case of Sir John Wolstenholme, and the 
other to prevent any such judgments from being 
given in future. Here are copies of the two 
acts: 

FIRST ACT, TO ANNUL THE JUDGMENT. 

" Whereas a verdict and judgment was had in 
the Easter term of the King's Bench, whereby 
Sir John Wolstenholme, knight, and adventurer 
in the East India Company, was found liable to 
a commission of bankrupt only for, and by rea 
son of, a share which he had in the joint stock 
of said company : Now, &c., Be it enacted, That 
the said judgment be reversed, annulled, vacated, 
and for naught held," &c. 

bECOND ACT, TO PREVENT SUCH JUDGMENTS IN 
FUTURE. 

" That whereas divers noblemen and gentle 
men, and persons of quality, no ways bred up 
to trade, do often put in great stocks of money 
into the East India and Guinea Company : Be it 
enacted, That no persons adventurers for put 
ting in money or merchandise into the said com 
panies, or for venturing or managing the fishing 
trade, called the royal fishing trade, shall be re 
puted or taken to be a merchant or trader within 
any statutes for bankrupts." 

Thus, and for these reasons, were chartered 
companies and their members exempted from 
the bankrupt penalties, under the dissolute 
reign of Charles II. It was not the power 
of the corporations at that time for the Bank 
of England was not then chartered, and the 
East India Company had not then conquered 
India which occasioned this exemption ; but it 
was to favor the dignified characters who en 
gaged in the trade noblemen, gentlemen, and 
persons of quality. But, afterwards, when the 
Bank of England had become almost the gov 
ernment of England, and when the East India 
Company had acquired the dominions of the 
Great Mogul, an act of Parliament expressly 
declared that no member of any incorporated 
company, chartered by act of Parliament, should 
be liable to become bankrupt. This act was 
passed in the reign of George IV., when the 
Wellington ministry was in power, and when 
liberal principles and human rights were at 



the last gasp. So much for these corpora 
tion exemptions in England ; and if the senator 
from Massachusetts finds any thing in such in 
stances worthy of imitation, let him stand forth 
and proclaim it. 

But, sir, I am not yet done with my answer 
to this question ; do such laws ordinarily extend 
to corporations at all ? I answer, most decided 
ly, that they do ! that they apply in England to 
all the corporations, except those specially ex- 
cepted by the act of George IV. ; and these 
are few in number, though great in power 
powerful, but few nothing but units to my 
riads, compared to those which are not excepted. 
The words of that act are: "Members of, or 
subscribers to, any incorporated commercial or 
trading companies, established by charter act 
of Parliament." These words cut off at once 
the many ten thousand corporations in the 
British empire existing by prescription, or in 
corporated by letters patent from the king 3 
and then they cut off all those even chartered 
by act of Parliament which are not commercial 
or trading in their nature. This saves but a 
few out of the hundreds of thousands of corpo 
rations which abound in England, Scotland, 
Wales, and Ireland. It saves, or rather con 
firms, the exemption of the Bank of England, 
which is a trader in money; and it confirms, 
also, the exemption of the East India Company 
which is, in contemplation of law at least, a 
commercial company ; and it saves or exempts 
a few others deriving charters of incorporation 
from Parliament; but it leaves subject to the 
law the whole wilderness of corporations, of 
which there are thousands in London alone, 
which derive from prescription or letters patent ; 
and it also leaves subject to the same laws all 
the corporations created by charter act of Par 
liament, which are not commercial or trading. 
The words of the act are very peculiar " char 
ter act of Parliament;" so that corporations 
by a general law, without a special charter act, 
are not included in the exemption. This an 
swer, added to what has been previously said, 
must be a sufficient reply to the senator's ques 
tion, whether bankrupt laws ordinarily extend 
to corporations ? Sir, out of the myriad of cor 
porations in Great Britain, the bankrupt law 
extends to the whole, except some half dozen 
or dozen. 

So much for the exemption of these corpora- 



ANNO 1837. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



51 



tions in England ; now for our America. We 
never had but one bankrupt law in the United 
States, and that for the short period of three or 
four years. It was passed under the adminis 
tration of the elder Mr. Adams, and repealed 
under Mr. Jefferson. It copied the English acts 
including among the subjects of bankruptcy, 
tankers, brokers, and factors. Corporations 
were not included ; and it is probable that no 
question was raised about them, as, up to that 
time, their number was few, and their conduct 
generally good. But, at a later date, the enact 
ment of a bankrupt law was again attempted in 
our Congress ; and, at that period, the multipli 
cation and the misconduct of banks presented 
them to the minds of many as proper subjects 
for the application of the law ; I speak of the 
bill of 1827, brought into the Senate, and lost. 
That bill, like all previous laws since the time 
of George II., was made applicable to bankers, 
brokers, and factors. A senator from North 
Carolina [Mr. BRANCH] moved to include bank 
ing corporations. The motion was lost, there 
being but twelve votes for it ; but in this twelve 
there were some whose names must carry weight 
to any cause to which they are attached. The 
twelve were, Messrs. Barton, Benton, Branch, 
Cobb, Dickerson, Hendricks, Macon, Noble, Ran 
dolph, Reed, Smith of South Carolina, and White. 
The whole of the friends of the bill, twenty-one 
in number, voted against the proposition, (the 
present Chief Magistrate in the number,) and 
for the obvious reason, with some, of not encum 
bering the measure they were so anxious to 
carry, by putting into it a new and untried pro 
vision. And thus stands our own legislation on 
this subject. In point of fact, then, chartered 
corporations have, thus far escaped bankrupt 
penalties, both in England, and in our America ; 
but ought they to continue to escape ? This is 
the question this the true and important in 
quiry, which is now to occupy the public mind. 
The senator from Massachusetts [Mr. WEB 
STER] says the object of bankrupt laws has no 
relation to currency ; that their object is sim 
ply to distribute the effects of insolvent debtors 
among their creditors. So says the senator, but 
what says history ? What says the practice of 
Great Britain ? I will show you what it says, 
and for that purpose will read a passage from 
McCulloeh'b no^s on Smith's Wealth of Nations. 
lie says : 



"In 1814-'15, and '16, no fewer than 240 
country banks stopped payment, and ninety-two 
commissions of bankruptcy were issued againgt 
these establishments, being at the rate of one 
commission against every seven and a half of 
the total number of country banks existing in 
1813." 

Two hundred and forty stopped payment at 
one dash, and ninety-two subjected to commis 
sions of bankruptcy. They were not indeed 
chartered banks, for there are none such in Eng 
land, except the Bank of England ; but they 
were legalized esublishments, existing under the 
first joint-stock bank act of 1708 ; and they were 
banks of issue. Yet they were subjected to the 
bankrupt laws, ninety-two of them in a single 
season of bank catalepsy ; their broken " prom 
ises to pay " were taken out of circulation; their 
doors closed ; their directors and officers turned 
out ; their whole effects, real and personal, their 
money, debts, books, paper, and every thing, put 
into the hands of assignees ; and to these as 
signees, the holders of their notes forwarded 
their demands, and were paid, every one in 
equal proportion as the debts of the bank were 
collected, and its effects converted into money ; 
and this without expense or trouble to any one 
of them. Ninety-two banks in England shared 
this fate in a single season of bank mortality ; 
five hundred more could be enumerated in other 
seasons, many of them superior in real capital, 
credit, and circulation, to our famous chartered 
banks, most of which are banks of moonshine, 
built upon each other's paper ; and the whole 
ready to fly sky-high the moment any one of 
the concern becomes sufficiently inflated to 
burst. The immediate effect of this application 
of the bankrupt laws to banks in England, is 
two-fold: first, to save the general currency 
from depreciation, by stopping the issue and 
circulation of irredeemable notes j secondly, to 
do equal justice to all creditors, high and low, 
rich and poor, present and absent, the widow 
and the orphan, as well as the cunning and the 
powerful, by distributing their effects in propor 
tionate amounts to all who hold demands. This 
is the operation of bankrupt laws upon banks in 
England, and all over the British empire ; and it 
happens to be the precise check upon the issue 
of broken bank paper, and the precise remedy 
for the injured holders of their dishonored paper 
which the President recommends. Here is his 
recommendation, listen to it : 



52 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



" In the mean time, it is our duty to provide 
all the remedies against a depreciated paper cur 
rency which the constitution enables us to af 
ford. The Treasury Department, on several 
former occasions, has suggested the propriety 
and importance of a uniform law concerning 
bankruptcies of corporations and other bankers. 
Through the instrumentality of such a law, a 
salutary check may doubtless be imposed on the 
issues of paper money, and an effectual remedy 
given to the citizen, in a way at once equal in 
all parts of the Union, and fully authorized by 
the constitution." 

The senator from Massachusetts says he 
would not, intentionally, do injustice to the mes 
sage or its author ; and doubtless he is not con 
scious of violating that benevolent determina 
tion ; but here is injustice, both to the message 
and to its author ; injustice in not quoting the 
message as it is, and showing that it proposes a 
remedy to the citizen, as well as a check upon 
insolvent issues ; injustice to the author in de 
nying that the object of bankrupt laws has any 
relation to currency, when history shows that 
these laws are the actual instrument for regula 
ting and purifying the whole local paper curren 
cy of the entire British empire, and saving that 
country from the frauds, losses, impositions, 
and demoralization of an irredeemable paper 
money. 

The senator from Massachusetts says the ob 
ject of bankrupt laws has no relation to curren 
cy. If he means hard-money currency, I agree 
with him ; but if he means bank notes, as I am 
sure he does, then I point him to the British 
bankrupt code, which applies to every bank of 
issue in the British empire, except the Bank of 
England itself, and the few others, four or five 
in number, which are incorporated by charter 
acts. All the joint-stock banks, all the private 
banks, all the bankers of England, Scotland, 
Wales, and Ireland, are subject to the law of 
bankruptcy. Many of these establishments are 
of great capital and credit ; some having hun 
dreds, or even thousands of partners ; and many 
of them having ten, or twenty, or thirty, and 
some even forty branches. They are almost the 
exclusive furnishers of the local and common 
bank note currency ; the Bank of England notes 
being chiefly used in the great cities for large 
mercantile and Government payments. These 
joint-stock banks, private companies, and indi 
vidual bankers are, practically, in the British 
empire what the local banks are in the United 



States. They perform the same functions, and 
differ in name only; not in substance nor in 
conduct. They have no charters, but they have 
a legalized existence ; they are not corporations, 
but they are allowed by law to act in a body j 
they furnish the actual paper currency of the 
great body of the people of the British empire, 
as much so as our local banks furnish the mass 
of paper currency to the people of the United 
States. They have had twenty-four millions 
sterling (one hundred and twenty millions of 
dollars) in circulation at one time ; a sum near 
ly equal to the greatest issue ever known in the 
United States; and more than equal to the whole 
bank-note circulation of the present day. They 
are all subject to the law of bankruptcy, and 
their twenty-four millions sterling of currency 
along with them; and five hundred of them 
have been shut up and wound up under com 
missions of bankruptcy in the last forty years ; 
and yet the senator from Massachusetts informs 
us that the object of bankrupt laws has no rela 
tion to currency ! 

But it is not necessary to go all the way to 
England to find bankrupt laws having relation 
to currency. The act passed in our own coun 
try, about forty years ago, applied to bankers j 
the bill brought into the House of Representa-- 
tives, about fifteen years ago, by a gentleman 
then, and now, a representative from the city 
of Philadelphia, [Mr. SERGEANT.] also applied 
to bankers ; and the bill brought into this Sen 
ate, ten years ago, by a senator from South 
Carolina, not now a member of this body, 
[General HAYNE,] still applied to bankers. 
These bankers, of whom there were many in the 
United States, and of whom Girard, in the 
East, and Yeatman and "Woods, in the West, 
were the most considerable these bankers all 
issued paper money ; they all issued currency. 
The act, then, of 1798, if it had continued in 
force, or the two bills just referred to, if they 
had become law, would have operated upon 
these bankers and their banks would have 
stopped their issues, and put their establish 
ments into the hands of assignees, and distrib 
uted their effects among their creditors. This, 
certainly, would have been having some rela 
tion to currency : so that, even with our limited 
essays towards a bankrupt system, we have 
scaled the outworks of the banking empire ; we 
have laid hold of bankers, but not of banks 



ANNO 1837. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



53 



we have reached the bank of Girard, but not 
the Girard Bank ; we have applied our law to 
the bank of Yeatman and Woods, but not to 
the rabble of petty corporations which have not 
the tithe of their capital and credit. We have 
gone as far as bankers, but not as far as banks ; 
and now give me a reason for the difference. 
Give me a reason why the act of 1798, the bill 
of Mr. SERGEANT, in 1821, and the bill of Gen 
eral HAYNE, in 1827, should not include banks 
as well as bankers. They both perform the 
same function that of issuing paper currency. 
They both involve the same mischief when 
they stop payment that of afflicting the coun 
try with a circulation of irredeemable and de 
preciated paper money. They are both culpa 
ble in the same mode, and in the same degree ; 
for they are both violators of their " promises 
to pay." They both exact a general credit 
from the community, and they both abuse that 
credit. They both have creditors, and they 
both have effects ; and these creditors have as 
much right to a pro rata distribution of the 
effects in one case as in the other. Why, then, 
a distinction in favor of the bank ? Is it be 
cause corporate bodies are superior to natural 
bodies? because artificial beings are superior 
to natural beings ? or, rather, is it not because 
corporations are assemblages of men ; and as 
semblages are more powerful than single men ; 
and, therefore, these corporations, in addition 
to all their vast privileges, are also to have the 
privilege of being bankrupt, and afflicting the 
country with the evils of bankruptcy, without 
themselves being subjected to the laws of bank 
ruptcy ? Be this as it may be the cause what 
it will the decree has gone forth for the deci 
sion of the question for the trial of the issue 
for the verdict and judgment upon the claim 
of the banks. They have many privileges and 
exemptions now, and they have the benefit of 
all laws against the community. They pay no 
taxes ; the property of the stockholders is not 
liable for their debts ; they sue their debtors, 
sell their property, and put their bodies in jail. 
They have the privilege of stamping paper 
money ; the privilege of taking interest upon 
double, treble, and quadruple their actual 
money. They put up and put down the price 
of property, labor, and produce, as they please. 
They have the monopoly of making the actual 
currency. They are strong enough to suppress 



the constitutional money, and to force their 
own paper upon the community, and then to 
redeem it or not, as they please. And is it to 
be tolerated, that, in addition to all these priv 
ileges, and all these powers, they are to be 
exempted from the law of bankruptcy ? the 
only law of which they are afraid, and the only 
one which can protect the country against 
their insolvent issues, and give a fair chance for 
payment to the numerous holders of their vio 
lated " promises to pay ! " 

I have discussed, Mr. President, the right of 
Congress to apply a bankrupt law to banking 
corporations ; I have discussed it on the words 
of our own constitution, on the practice of 
England, and on the general authority of Par 
liament ; and on each and every ground, as I 
fully believe, vindicated our right to pass the 
law. The right is clear ; the expediency is mani 
fest and glaring. Of all the objects upon the 
earth, banks of circulation are the fittest sub 
jects of bankrupt laws. They act in secret, 
and they exact a general credit. Nobody 
knows their means, yet every body must trust 
them. They send their " promises to pay " far 
and near. They push them into every body's 
hands ; they make them small to go into small 
hands into the hands of the laborer, the 
widow, the helpless, the ignorant. Suddenly 
the bank stops payment; all these helpless 
holders of their notes are without pay, and 
without remedy. A few on the spot get a lit 
tle ; those at a distance get nothing. For each 
to sue, is a vexatious and a losing business. 
The only adequate remedy the only one that 
promises any justice to the body of the com 
munity, and the helpless holders of small notes 
is the bankrupt remedy of assignees to dis 
tribute the effects. This makes the real effects 
available. When a bank stops, it has little or 
no specie ; but it has, or ought to have, a good 
mass of solvent debts. At present, all these 
debts are unavailable to the community they 
go to a few large and favored creditors; and 
those who are most in need get nothing. But 
a stronger view remains to be taken of these 
debts : the mass of them are due from the own 
ers and managers of the banks from the pres 
idents, directors, cashiers, stockholders, attor 
neys ; and these people do not make them 
selves pay. They do not sue themselves, nor 
protest themselves. They sue and protest 



54 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



others, and sell out their property, and put 
their bodies in jail; but, as for themselves, 
who are the main debtors, it is another affair ! 
They take their time, and usually wait till the 
notes are heavily depreciated, and then square 
oft' with a few cents in the dollar ! A commis 
sion of bankruptcy is the remedy for this evil ; 
assignees of the effects of the bank are the per 
sons to make these owners, and managers, and 
chief debtors to the institutions, pay up. Un 
der the bankrupt law, every holder of a note, 
no matter how small in amount, nor how dis 
tant the holder may reside, on forwarding the 
note to the assignees, will receive his ratable 
proportion of the bank's effects, without ex* 
pense, and without trouble to himself. It is a 
most potent, a most proper, and most constitu 
tional remedy against delinquent banks. It is 
an equitable and a brave remedy. It does 
honor to the President who recommended it, 
and is worthy of the successor of Jackson. 

Senators upon this floor have ventured the 
expression of an opinion that there can be no 
resumption of specie payments in this country 
until a national bank shall be established, mean 
ing, all the while, until the present miscalled 
Bank of the United States shall be rechartered. 
Such an opinion is humiliating to this govern 
ment, and a reproach upon the memory of its 
founders. It is tantamount to a declaration 
that the government, framed by the heroes and 
sages of the Revolution, is incapable of self- 
preservation ; that it is a miserable image of 
imbecility, and must take refuge in the embraces 
of a moneyed corporation, to enable it to sur 
vive its infirmities. The humiliation of such a 
thought should expel it from the imagination 
of every patriotic mind. Nothing but a dire 
necessity a last, a sole, an only alternative 
should bring this government to the thought 
of leaning upon any extraneous aid. But here 
is no necessity, no reason, no pretext, no excuse, 
no apology, for resorting to collateral aid ; and, 
above all, to the aid of a master in the shape 
af a national bank. The granted powers of the 
government are adequate to the coercion of all 
the banks. As banks, the federal government 
has no direct authority over them ; but as bank 
rupts, it has them in its own hands. It can 
pass bankrupt laws for these delinquent insti 
tutions. It can pass such laws either with or 
without including merchants and traders; and 



the day for such law to take effect, will be the 
day for the resumption of specie payments by 
every solvent bank, and the day for the extinc 
tion of the abused privileges of every insolvent 
one. So far from requiring the impotent aid 
of the miscalled Bank of the United States to 
effect a resumption, that institution will be un 
able to prevent a resumption. Its veto power 
over other banks will cease ; and it will itself 
be compelled to resume specie payment, or die ! 
Besides these great objects to be attained by 
the application of a bankrupt law to banking 
corporations, there are other great purposes to 
be accomplished, and some most sacred duties 
to be fulfilled, by the same means. Our con 
stitution contains three most vital prohibitions, 
of which the federal government is the guardian 
and the guarantee, and which are now publicly 
trodden under foot. No State shall emit bills 
of credit ; no State shall make any thing but 
gold and silver coin a tender in payment of 
debts; no State shall pass any law impairing 
the obligation of contracts. No State shall do 
these things. So says the constitution under 
which we live, and which it is the duty of 
every citizen to protect, preserve, and defend. 
But a new power has sprung up among us, and 
has annulled the whole of these prohibitions. 
That new power is the oligarchy of banks. It 
has filled the whole land with bills of credit ; 
for it is admitted on all hands that bank notes, 
not convertible into specie, are bills of credit. 
It has suppressed the constitutional currency, 
and made depreciated paper money a forced 
tender in payment of every debt. It has vio 
lated all its own contracts, and compelled all 
individuals, and the federal government and 
State governments, to violate theirs ; and has 
obtained from sovereign States an express sanc 
tion, or a silent acquiescence, in this double 
violation of sacred obligations, and in this 
triple annulment of constitutional prohibitions. 
It is our duty to bring, or to try to bring, this 
new power under subordination to the laws 
and the government. It is our duty to go to 
the succor of the constitution to rescue, if pos 
sible, these prohibitions from daily, and public 
and permanent infraction. The application of the 
bankrupt law to this new power, is the way to 
effect this rescue the way to cause these vital 
prohibitions to be respected and observed, and 
to do it in a way to prevent collisions between 



ANNO 1837. MARTI tf VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



the States and the federal government. The 
prohibitions are upon the States ; it is they 
who are not to do these things, and, of course, 
are not to authorize others to do what they 
cannot do themselves. The banks are their 
delegates in this three-fold violation of the 
constitution ; and, in proceeding against these 
delegates, we avoid collision with the States. 

Mr. President, every form of government has 
something in it to excite the pride, and to 
rouse the devotion, of its citizens. In monar 
chies, it is the authority of the king ; in repub 
lics, it is the sanctity of the laws. The loyal 
subject makes it the point of honor to obey the 
king ; the patriot republican makes it his glory 
to obey the laws. We are a republic. We have 
had illustrious citizens, conquering generals, and 
victorious armies ; but no citizen, no general, no 
army, has undertaken to dethrone the laws and 
to reign in their stead. This parricidal work 
has been reserved for an oligarchy of banks ! 
Three times, in thrice seven years, this oligarchy 
has dethroned the law, and reigned in its place. 
Since May last, it has held the sovereign sway, 
and has not yet vouchsafed to indicate the day 
of its voluntary abdication. The Roman mili 
tary dictators usually fixed a term to their 
dictatorships. I speak of the usurpers, not of 
the constitutional dictators for ten days. These 
usurpers usually indicated a time at which 
usurpation should cease, and law and order 
again prevail. Not so with this new power 
which now lords it over our America. They fix 
no day ; they limit no time ; they indicate no 
period for their voluntary descent from power, 
and for their voluntary return to submission to 
the laws. They could agree in the twinkling of 
an eye at the drop of a hat at the crook of a 
finger to usurp the sovereign power; they 
cannot agree, in four months, to relinquish it. 
They profess to be willing, but cannot agree upon 
the time. Let us perform that service for them. 
Let us name a day. Let us fix it in a bankrupt 
law. Let us pass that law, and fix a day for it 
to take effect ; and that day will be the day for 
the resumption of specie payments, or for the 
trial of the question of permanent supremacy 
between the oligarchy of banks, and the consti 
tutional government of the people. 

We are called upon to have mercy upon the 
banks ; the prayer should rather be to them, to 
iuve mercy upon the government and the peo 



ple. Since May last the ex-deposit banks alone 
have forced twenty-five millions of depreciated 
paper through the federal government upon its 
debtors and the States, at a loss of at least two 
and a half millions to the receivers, and a gain 
of an equal amount to the paj'ers. The thou 
sand banks have the country and the govern 
ment under their feet at this moment, owing to 
the community upwards of an hundred millions 
of dollars, of which they will pay nothing, not 
even ninepences, picayunes, and coppers. Meta 
phorically, if not literally, they give their credi 
tors more kicks than coppers. It is for them to 
have mercy on us. But what is the conduct of 
government towards these banks ? Even at this 
session, with all their past conduct unatoned for, 
we have passed a relief bill for their benefit a 
bill to defer the collection of the large balance 
which they still owe the government. But 
there is mercy due in another quarter upon the 
people, suffering from the use of irredeemable 
and depreciated paper upon the government, 
reduced to bankruptcy upon the character of 
the country, suffering in the eyes of Europe 
upon the character of republican government, 
brought into question by the successful usurpa 
tion of these institutions. This last point is the 
sorest. Gentlemen speak of the failure of ex 
periments the failure of the specie experiment, 
as it is called by those who believe that paper is 
the ancient and universal money of the world ; 
and that the use of a little specie for the first 
time is not to be attempted. They dwell upon the 
supposed failure of " the experiment ; " while all 
the monarchists of Europe are rejoicing in the 
failure of the experiment of republican govern 
ment, at seeing this government, the last hope 
of the liberal world, struck and paralyzed by an 
oligarchy of banks seized by the throat, throt 
tled and held as a tiger would hold a babe 
stripped of its revenues, bankrupted, and sub 
jected to the degradation of becoming their en 
gine to force their depreciated paper upon help 
less creditors. Here is the place for mercy 
upon the people upon the government upoo 
the character of the country upon the charac 
ter of republican government. 

The apostle of republicanism, Mr. Jefferson, 
has left it as a political legacy to the people of 
the United States, never to suffer their govern 
ment to fall under the control of any unauthor 
ized, irresponsible, or self-created institutions or 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



bodies whatsoever. His allusion was to the 
Bank of the United States, and its notorious 
machinations to govern the elections, and get 
command of the government ; but his admoni 
tion applies with equal force to all other similar 
or affiliated institutions ; and, since May last, it 
applies to the whole league of banks which then 
" shut up the Treasury," and reduced the gov 
ernment to helpless dependence. 

It is said that bankruptcy is a severe remedy 
to apply to banks. It may be answered that it 
is not more severe here than in England, where 
it applies to all banks of issue, except the Bank 
of England, and a few others ; and it is not more 
severe to them than it is to merchants and tra 
ders, and to bankers and brokers, and all unin 
corporated banks. Personally, I was disposed 
to make large allowances for the conduct of the 
banks. Our own improvidence tempted them 
into an expansion of near forty millions, in 1835 
and 1836, by giving them the national domain 
to bank upon ; a temptation which they had not 
the fortitude to resist, and which expanded them 
to near the bursting point. Then they were 
driven almost to a choice of bankruptcy between 
themselves and their debtors, by the act which 
required near forty millions to be distributed in 
masses, and at brief intervals, among the States. 
Some failures were inevitable under these 
circumstances, and I was disposed to make lib 
eral allowances for them ; but there are three 
things for which the banks have no excuse, and 
which should forever weigh against their claims 
to favor and confidence. These things are, first, 
the political aspect which the general suspen 
sion of payment was permitted to assume, and 
which it still wears ; secondly, the issue and use 
of shinplasters, and refusal to pay silver change, 
when there are eighty millions of specie in the 
country; thirdly, the refusal, by the deposit 
banks to pay out the sums which had been 
severed from the Treasury, and stood in the 
names of disbursing officers, and was actually 
due to those who were performing work and 
labor, and rendering daily services to the gov 
ernment. For these three things there is no 
excuse ; and, while memory retains their recol 
lection, there can be no confidence in those who 
have done them. 



CHAPTER XV. 

DIVORCE OF BANK AND STATE: MR. BENTON'S 
SPEECH. 

THE bill is to divorce the government from the 
banks, or rather is to declare the divorce, for 
the separation has already taken place by the 
operation of law and by the delinquency of the 
banks. The bill is to declare the divorce ; the 
amendment is to exclude their notes from reve 
nue payments, not all at once, but gradually, 
and to be accomplished by the 1st day of Janu 
ary, 1841. Until then the notes of specie-pay 
ing banks may be received, diminishing one- 
fourth annually ; and after that day, all pay 
ments to and from the federal government are 
to be made in hard money. Until that day, pay 
ments from the United States will be governed 
by existing laws. The amendment does not 
affect the Post Office department until January, 
1 841 ; until then, the fiscal operations of that 
Department remain under the present laws ; 
after that day they fall under the principle of 
the bill, and all payments to and from that de 
partment will be made in hard money. The 
effect of the whole amendment will be to restore 
the currency of the constitution to the federal 
government to re-establish the great acts of 
1789 and of 1800 declaring that the revenues 
should be collected in gold and silver coin only ; 
those early statutes which were enacted by the 
hard money men who made the constitution, 
who had seen and felt the evils of that paper mo 
ney, and intended to guard against these evils 
in future by creating, not a paper, but a hard- 
money government. 

I am for this restoration. I am for restoring 
to the federal treasury the currency of the con 
stitution. I am for carrying back this govern 
ment to the solidity projected by its founders. 
This is a great object in itself a reform of the 
first magnitude a reformation with healing on 
its wings, bringing safety to the government and 
blessings to the people. The currency is a thing 
which reaches every individual, and every insti 
tution. From the government to the washer 
woman, all are reached by it, and all concerned 
in it ; and, what seems parodoxical, all arc con 
cerned to the same degree j for all are con- 



ANNO 1837. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



57 



cerned to the whole extent of their property and 
dealings ; and all is all, whether it be much or 
little. The government with its many ten mil 
lions of revenue, suffers no more in proportion 
than the humble and meritorious laborer who 
works from sun to sun for the shillings which 
give food and raiment to his family. The fede 
ral government has deteriorated the currency, 
and carried mischief to the whole community, 
and lost its own revenues, and subjected itself 
to be trampled upon by corporations, by depart 
ing from the constitution, and converting this 
government from a hard-money to a paper mo 
ney government. The object of the amendment 
and the bill is to reform these abuses, and it is 
a reform worthy to be called a reformation 
worthy to engage the labor of patriots worthy 
to unite the exertions of different parties wor 
thy to fix the attention of the age worthy to 
excite the hopes of the people, and to invoke 
upon its success the blessings of heaven. 

Great are the evils, political, pecuniary, and 
moral, which have flowed from this departure 
from our constitution. Through the federal 
government alone through it, not by it two 
millions and a half of money have been lost in 
the last four months. Thirty-two millions of 
public money was the amount in the deposit 
banks when they stopped payment ; of this sum 
twenty-five millions have been paid over to gov 
ernment creditors, or transferred to the States. 
But how paid, and how transferred ? In what ? 
In real money, or its equivalent ? Not at all ! 
But in the notes of suspended banks in notes 
depreciated, on an average, ten per cent. Here 
then were two and a half millions lost. Who 
bore the loss ? The public creditors and the 
States. Who gained it ? for where there is a 
loss to one, there must be a gain to another. 
Who gained the two and a half millions, thus 
sunk upon the hands of the creditors and the 
States ? The banks were the gainers ; they 
gained it ; the public creditors and the States 
lost it ; and to the creditors it was a forced loss. 
It is in vain to say that they consented to take 
it. They had no alternative. It was that or 
nothing. The banks forced it upon the govern 
ment ; the government forced it upon the credi 
tor. Consent was out of the question. Power 
ruled, and that power was in the banks ; and 
they gained the two and a half millions which 
the States and the public creditors lost. 



I do not pretend to estimate the moneyed 
losses, direct and indirect, to the government 
alone, from the use of local bank notes in the 
last twenty-five years, including the war, and 
covering three general suspensions. Leaving 
the people out of view, as a field of losses be 
yond calculation, I confine myself to the federal 
government, and say, its losses have been enor 
mous, prodigious, and incalculable. We have 
had three general stoppages of the local banks 
in the short spaoc, of twenty-two years. It is 
at the average rate of one in seven years ; and 
who is to guaranty us from another, and from 
the consequent losses, if we continue to receive 
their bills in payment of public dues ? Another 
stoppage must come, and that, reasoning from 
all analogies, in less than seven years after the 
resumption. Many must perish in the attempt 
to resume, and would do better to wind up at 
once, without attempting to go on, without ade 
quate means, and against appalling obstacles. 
Another revulsion must come. Thus it was 
after the last resumption. The banks recom 
menced payments in 1817 in two years, the 
failures were more disastrous than ever. Thus 
it was in England after the long suspension of 
twenty-six years. Payments recommenced in 
1823 in 1825 the most desolating crash of 
banks took place which had ever been known 
in the kingdom, although the Bank of England 
had imported, in less than four years, twenty 
millions sterling in gold, about one hundred 
millions of dollars, to recommence upon. Its 
effects reached this country, crushed the cotton 
houses in New Orleans, depressed the money 
market, and injured all business. 

The senators from New York and Virginia 
(Messrs. Tallmadge and Rives) push this point 
of confidence a little further ; they address a 
question to me, and ask if I would lose confi 
dence in all steamboats, and have them all dis 
carded, if one or two blew up in the Mississippi ? 
I answer the question in all frankness, and say, 
that I should not. But if, instead of one or two 
in the Mississippi, all the steamboats in the 
Union should blow up at once in every creek, 
river and bay while all the passengers were 
sleeping in confidence, and the pilots crying out 
all is well ; if the whole should blow up from 
one end of the Union to the other just as fast as 
they could hear each other's explosions ; then, 
indeed, I should lose confidence in them, and 



58 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



never again trust wife, or child, or my own foot, 
or any thing not intended for destruction, on 
board such sympathetic and contagious engines 
of death. I answer further, and tell the gentle 
men, that if only one or two banks had stopped 
last May in New York, I should not have lost 
all confidence in the remaining nine hundred 
and ninety-nine ; but when the whole thou 
sand stopped at once ; tumbled down together 
fell in a lump lie there and when ONE of 
their number, by a sign with the little finger, 
can make the whole lie still, then, indeed, confi 
dence is gone ! And this is the case with the 
banks. They have not only stopped altogether, 
but in a season of profound peace, with eighty 
millions of specie in the country, and just after 
the annual examinations by commissioners and 
legislative committees, and when all was re 
ported well. With eighty millions in the coun 
try, they stop even for change ! It did not take 
a national calamity a war to stop them ! 
They fell in time of peace and prosperity ! We 
read of people in the West Indies, and in South 
America, who rebuild their cities on the same 
spot where earthquakes had overthrown them ; 
we arc astonished at their fatuity ; we wonder 
that they will build again on the same perilous 
foundations. But these people have a reason 
for their conduct ; it is, that their cities are only 
destroyed by earthquakes ; it takes an earth 
quake to destroy them ; and when there is no 
earthquake, they are safe. But suppose their 
cities fell down without any commotion in the 
earth, or the air fell in a season of perfect 
calm and serenity and after that the survivors 
should go to building again in the same place ; 
would not all the world say that they were de 
mented, and were doomed to destruction ? So 
of the government of the United States by these 
banks. If it continues to use them, and to re 
ceive their notes for revenue, after what has 
happened, and in the face of what now exists, 
it argues fatuity, and a doom to destruction. 

Resume when they will, or when they shall, 
and the longer it is delayed the worse for them 
selves, the epoch of resumption is to be a peril 
ous crisis to many. This stopping and resuming 
by banks, is 1he realization of the poetical de 
scription of the descent into hell, and the return 
from it. Facilis descensus Ave7*ni sed revo- 
care gradum hie opus, hie labor est. Easy 
is the descent into the regions below, but to re 



turn ! this is work, this is labor indeed ! Our 
banks have made the descent ; they have gone 
down with ease ; but to return to ascend the 
rugged steps, and behold again the light above 
how many will falter, and fall back into thi 
gloomy regions below. 

Banks of circulation are banks of hazard and 
of failure. It is an incident of their nature. 
Those without circulation rarely fail. That of 
Venice has stood seven hundred years ; those of 
HauJburgh, Amsterdam, and others, have stood 
for centuries. The Bank of England, the great 
mother of banks of circulation, besides an actual 
stoppage of a quarter of a century, has had her 
crisis and convulsion in average periods of seven 
or eight years, for the last half century in 
1783, '93, '97, 1814, '19, '25, '36 and has only 
been saved from repeated failure by the power 
ful support of the British government, and pro 
fuse supplies of exchequer bills. Her numerous 
progeny of private and joint stock banks of cir 
culation have had the same convulsions ; and 
not being supported by the government, have 
sunk by hundreds at a time. All the banks oi 
the United States are banks of circulation ; they 
are all subject to the inherent dangers of that 
class of banks, and are, besides, subject to new 
dangers peculiar to themselves. From the 
quantity of their stock held by foreigners, the 
quantity of other stocks in their hands, and the 
current foreign balance against the United 
States, our paper system has become an ap 
pendage to that of England. As such, it suffers 
from sympathy when the English system suffers. 
In addition to this, a new doctrine is now- 
broached that our first duty is to foreigners ! 
and, upon this principle, when the banks of the 
two countries are in peril, ours are to be sacri 
ficed to save those of England ! 

The power of a few banks over the whole 
presents a new feature of danger in our system. 
It consolidates the banks of the whole Union 
into one mass, and subjects them to one fate, 
and that fate to be decided by a few, without 
even the knowledge of the rest. An unknown 
divan of bankers sends forth an edict which 
sweeps over the empire, crosses the lines ol 
States with the facility of a Turkish firman, 
prostrating all State institutions, breaking up 
all engagements, and levelling all law before it. 
This is consolidation of a kind which the geniua 
of Patrick Henry had not even conceived. But 



ANNO 183Y. MARTIN VAN BUREN PRESIDENT. 



while this firman is thus potent and irresistible 
for prostration, it is impotent and powerless for 
resurrection. It goes out in vain, bidding the 
prostrate banks to rise. A veto power intervenes. 
One voice is sufficient to keep all down ; and thus 
we have seen one word from Philadelphia an- 
'nihilate the New York proposition for resump 
tion, and condemn the many solvent banks to 
the continuation of a condition as mortifying to 
their feelings as it is injurious to their future 
interests. 

Again, from the mode of doing business among 
our banks using each other's paper to bank 
upon, instead of holding each other to weekly 
settlements, and liquidation of balances in specie, 
and from the fatal practice of issuing notes at 
one place, payable at another our banks have 
all become links of one chain, the strength of the 
whole being dependent on the strength of each. 
A few govern all. Whether it is to fail, or to 
resume, the few govern ; and not only the few, 
but the weak. A few weak banks fail ; a panic 
ensues, and the rest shut up ; many strong ones 
are ready to resume ; the weak are not ready, 
and the strong must wait. Thus the principles 
of safety, and the rules of government, are re 
versed. The weak govern the strong ; the bad 
govern the good ; and the insolvent govern the 
solvent. This is our system, if system it can be 
called, which has no feature of consistency, no 
principle of safety, and which is nothing but the 
floating appendage of a foreign and overpower 
ing system. 

The federal government and its creditors have 
suffered great pecuniary losses from the use of 
these banks and their paper; they must con 
tinue to sustain such losses if they continue to 
use such depositories and to receive such paper. 
The pecuniary losses have been, now are, and 
must be hereafter great ; but, great as they have 
been, now are, and may be hereafter, all that 
loss is nothing compared to the political dangers 
which flow from the same source. These dan 
gers affect the life of the government. They go 
to its existence. They involve anarchy, con 
fusion, violence, dissolution! They go to 
deprive the government of support of the 
means of living ; they strip it in an instant of 
every shilling of revenue, and leave it penniless, 
helpless, lifeless. The late stoppage might have 
broken up the government, had it not been for 
the fidelity and affection of the people to their in 
stitutions and the eighty millions of specie which 



General Jackson had accumulated in the coun 
try. That stoppage presented a peculiar feature 
of peril which has not been brought to the 
notice of the public ; it was the stoppage of the 
sums standing in the names of disbursing 
officers, and wanted for daily payments in all 
the branches of the public service. These sums 
amounted to about five millions of dollars. 
They had been drawn from the Treasury, they 
were no longer standing to the credit of the 
United States ; they had gone into the hands of 
innumerable officers and agents, in all parts of 
the Union, and were temporarily, and for mere 
safe-keeping from day to day, lodged with these 
deposit banks, to be incessantly paid out to 
those who were doing work and labor, perform 
ing contracts, or rendering service, civil or mili 
tary, to the country. These five millions were 
stopped with the rest ! In an instant, as if by 
enchantment, every disbursing officer, in every 
part of the Union, was stripped of the money 
which he was going to pay out ! All officers of 
the government, high and low, the whole army 
and navy, all the laborers and contractors, post 
offices and all, were suddenly, instantaneously, 
left without payj and consequently without sub 
sistence. It was tantamount to a disbandment 
of the entire government. It was like a decree 
for the dissolution of the body politic. It was 
celebrated as a victory as a conquest as a 
triumph, over the government. The least that 
was expected was an immediate civil revolution 
the overthrow of the democratic party, the 
change of administration, the reascension of the 
federal party to power, and the re-establishment 
of the condemned Bank of the United States. 
These consequences were counted upon; and 
that they did not happen was solely owing to 
the eighty millions of hard money which kept 
up a standard of value in the country, and pre 
vented the dishonored bank notes from sinking 
too low to be used by the community. But it is 
not merely stoppage of the banks that we have 
to fear : collisions with the States may ensue. 
State legislatures may sanction the stoppage, 
withhold the poor right of suing, and thus in 
terpose their authority between the federal 
government and its revenues. This has already 
happened, not in hostility to the government, 
but in protection of themselves ; and the conse 
quence was the same as if the intention had been 
hostile. It was interposition between the 
federal government and its depositories ; it was 



so 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



deprivation of revenue ; it was an act the recur 
rence of which should be carefully guarded 
against in future. 

This is what we have seen ; this is a danger 
which we have just escaped ; and if these banks 
shall be continued as depositories of public 
money, or, which is just the same thing, if the 
government shall continue to receive their 
" paper promises to pay," the same danger may 
be seen again, and under far more critical cir 
cumstances. A similar stoppage of the banks 
may take place again will inevitably take 
place again and it may be when there is little 
specie in the country, or when war prevails. All 
history is full of examples of armies and navies 
revolting for want of pay j all history is full of 
examples of military and naval operations mis 
carried for want of money ; all history is full of in 
stances of governments overturned from deficits 
of revenue and derangements of finances. And 
are we to expose ourselves recklessly, and with 
our eyes open, to such dangers ? And are we to 
stake the life and death of this government upon 
the hazards and contingencies of banking and 
of such banking as exists in these United States 1 
Are we to subject the existence of this govern 
ment to the stoppages of the banks, whether 
those stoppages result from misfortune, impro 
vidence, or bad faith ? Are we to subject this 
great and glorious political fabric, the work of 
BO many wise and patriotic heads, to be de 
molished in an instant, and by an unseen hand ? 
Are we to suffer the machinery and the work 
ing of our boasted constitution to be arrested 
by a spring catch, applied in the dark? Are 
men, with pens sticking behind their ears, to be 
allowed to put an end to this republic ? No, 
sir ! never. If we are to perish prematurely, let 
us at least have a death worthy of a great 
nation ; let us at least have a field covered with 
the bodies of heroes and of patriots, and conse 
crated forever to the memory of a subverted 
empire. Rome had her Pharsalia Greece her 
Chseronea and many barbarian kingdoms have 
given immortality to the spot on which they 
expired ; and shall this great republic be sub 
jected to extinction on the contingencies of trade 
and banking 1 

But what excuse, what apology, what justi 
fication have we for surrendering, abandoning, 
and losing the precise advantage for which the 
present constitution was formed? AVhat was 



that advantage what the leading and govern' 
ing object, which led to the abandonment of the 
old confederation, and induced the adoption of 
the present form of government ? It was reve 
nue ! independent revenue! a revenue under 
the absolute control of this government, and 
free from the action of the States. This was 
the motive the leading and the governing mo 
tive which led to the formation of this govern 
ment. The reason was, that the old confedera 
tion, being dependent upon the States, was 
often left without money. This state of being 
was incompatible with its existence ; it deprived 
it of all power ; its imbecility was a proverb. 
To extricate it from that condition was the de 
sign and the cardinal design of the new con 
stitution. An independent revenue was given 
to it independent, even, of the States. Is it 
not suicidal to surrender that independence, 
and to surrender it. not to States, but to money 
corporations ? What does history record of the 
penury and monej'ed destitution of the old con 
federation, comparable to the annihilation of the 
revenues of this government in May last? when 
the banks shut down, in one night, upon a rev 
enue, in hand, of thirty-two millions; even 
upon that which was in the names of disbursing 
officers, and refuse a nine-pence, or a picaillon 
in money, from that day to this ? What is 
there in the history of the old confederation 
comparable to this? The old confederation 
was often reduced low often near empty- 
handed but never saw itself stripped in an 
instant, as if by enchantment, of tens of mil 
lions, and heard the shout of triumph thun 
dered over its head, and the notes of exultation 
sung over its supposed destruction ! Yet, this 
is what we have seen what we now see from 
having surrendered to corporations our moneyed 
independence, and unwisely abandoned the pre 
cise advantage which led to the formation of this 
federal government. 

I do not go into the moral view of this ques 
tion. It is too obvious, too impressive, too 
grave, to escape the observation of any one. 
Demoralization follows in the train of an un 
convertible paper money. The whols com 
munity becomes exposed to a moral pestilence. 
Every individual becomes the victim of some 
imposition ; and, in self-defence, imposes upon 
some one else. The weak, the ignorant, the 
uninformed, the necessitous, are the sufferers ; 



ANNO 183Y. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



61 



the crafty and the opulent are the gainers. 
The evil augments until the moral sense of the 
community, revolting at the frightful accumu 
lation of fraud and misery, applies the radical 
remedy of total reform. 

Thus, pecuniary, political, and moral con 
siderations require the government to retrace 
its steps, to return to first principles, and to 
restore its fiscal action to the safe and solid 
path of the constitution. Reform is demanded. 
[t is called for by every public and by every 
private consideration. Now is the time to 
make it. The connection between Bank and 
State is actually dissolved. It is dissolved by 
operation of law, and by the delinquency of 
these institutions. They have forfeited the 
right to the deposits, and lost the privilege of 
paying the revenue in their notes, by ceasing to 
pay specie. The government is now going on 
without them, and all that is wanting is the 
appropriate legislation to perpetuate the divorce 
which, in point of fact, has already taken place. 
Now is the time to act; this the moment to 
restore the constitutional currency to the fed 
eral government ; to restore the custody of the 
public moneys to national keepers ; and to avoid, 
in time to come, the calamitous revulsions and 
perilous catastrophes of 1814, 1819, and 1837. 

And what is the obstacle to the adoption of 
this course, so imperiously demanded by the 
safety of the republic and the welfare of the 
people, and so earnestly recommended to us by 
the chief magistrate ? What is the obstacle 
what the power that countervails the Executive 
recommendation, paralyzes the action of Con 
gress, and stays the march of reform? The 
banks the banks the banks, are this obsta 
cle, and this power. They set up the preten 
sion to force their paper into the federal Treas 
ury, and to force themselves to be constituted 
that Treasury. Though now bankrupt, their 
paper dishonored, their doors closed against 
creditors, every public and every private obli 
gation violated, still they arrogate a supremacy 
over this federal government ; they demand the 
guardianship of the public moneys, and the 
privilege of furnishing a federal currency ; and, 
though too weak to pay their debts, they are 
strong enough to throttle this government, and 
to hold in doubtful suspense the issue of their 
vast pretensions. 

The President, in his message, recommends 



four things : first, to discontinue the reception 
of local bank paper in payment of federal dues ; 
secondly, to discontinue the same banks as 
depositories of the public moneys ; thirdly, to 
make the future collection and disbursement of 
the public moneys in gold and silver ; fourthly, 
to take the keeping of the public moneys into 
the hands of our own officers. 

What is there in this but a return to the 
words and meaning of the constitution, and a 
conformity to the practice of the government in 
the first years of President Washington's ad 
ministration ? When this federal government 
was first formed, there was no Bank of the 
United States, and no local banks, except three 
north of the Potomac. By the act of 1789, the 
revenues were directed to be Collected in gold 
and silver coin only ; and it was usually drawn 
out of the hands of collectors by drafts drawn 
upon them, payable at sight. It was a most 
effectual way of drawing money out of their 
hands ; far more so than an order to deposit in 
banks; for the drafts must be paid, or pro 
tested, at sight, while the order to deposit may 
be eluded under various pretexts. 

The right and the obligation of the govern 
ment to keep its own moneys in its own hands, 
results from first principles, and from the great 
law of self-preservation. Every thing else that 
belongs to her, she keeps herself; and why not 
keep that also, without which every thing else 
is nothing ? Arms and ships provisions, muni 
tions, and supplies of every kind are kept in 
the hands of government officers ; money is the 
sinew of war, and why leave this sinew exposed 
to be cut by any careless or faithless hand ? 
Money is the support and existence of the gov 
ernment the breath of its nostrils, and why 
leave this support this breath to the custody 
of those over whom we have no control ? How 
absurd to place our ships, our arms, our mili 
tary and naval supplies in the hands of those 
who could refuse to deliver them when re 
quested, and put the government to a suit at 
law to recover their possession ! Every body 
sees the absurdity of this; but to place our 
money in the same condition, and, moreover, to 
subject it to the vicissitudes of trade and the 
perils of banking, is still more absurd ; for it is 
the life blood, without which the government 
cannot live the oil, without which no part of 
j its machinery can move. 



62 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



England, with all her banks, trusts none of 
them with the collection, keeping, and disburse 
ment of her public moneys. The Bank of 
England is paid a specific sum to manage the 
public debt ; but the revenue is collected and 
disbursed through subordinate collectors and 
receivers general; and these receivers general 
are not subject to the bankrupt laws, because 
the government will not sufler its revenue to 
be operated upon by any law except its own 
will. In France, subordinate collectors and 
receivers general collect, keep, and disburse the 
public moneys. If they deposit any thing in 
banks, it is at their own risk. It is the same 
thing in England. A bank deposit by an offi 
cer is at the risk of himself and his securities. 
Too much of the perils and vicissitudes of 
banking is known in these countries to permit 
the government ever to jeopard its revenues in 
their keeping. All this is shown, fully and at 
large, in a public document now on our tables. 
And who does not recognize in these collectors 
and receivers general of France and England, 
the ancient Roman officers of quaestors and pro- 
quaestors ? These fiscal officers of France and 
England are derivations from the Roman insti 
tutions; and the same are found in all the 
modern kingdoms of Europe which were for 
merly, like France and Britain, provinces of the 
Roman empire. The measure before the Sen 
ate is to enable us to provide for our future 
safety, by complying with our own constitution, 
and conforming to the practice of all nations, 
great or small, ancient or modern. 

Coming nearer home, and looking into our 
own early history, what were the " continental 
treasurers " of the confederation, and the " pro 
vincial treasurers and collectors," provided for 
as early as July, 1775, but an imitation of the 
French and English systems, and very near the 
plan which we propose now to re-establish ! 
These continental treasurers, and there were 
two of them at first, though afterwards reduced 
to one, were the receivers general ; the provin 
cial treasurers and collectors were their subor 
dinates. By these officers the public moneys 
were collected, kept, and disbursed; for there 
were no banks then ! and all government drafts 
were drawn directly upon these officers. This 
simple plan worked well during the Revolution, 
and afterwards, until the new government was 
formed; and continued to work, with a mere 



change of names and forms, during the first 
years of Washington's administration, and until 
General Hamilton's bank machinery got into 
play. This bill only proposes to re-establish. 
in substance, the system of the Revolution, of 
the Congress of the confederation, and of the 
first years of Washington's administration. 

The bill reported by the chairman of the Com 
mittee on Finance [Mr. WRIGHT of New York] 
presents the details of the plan for accomplish 
ing this great result. That bill has been printed 
and read. Its simplicity, economy, and efficien 
cy strike the sense of all who hear it, and anni 
hilate without argument, the most formidable 
arguments of expense and patronage, which had 
been conceived against it. The present officers, 
the present mints, and one or two more mints 
in the South, in the West, and in the North, 
complete the plan. There will be no necessity 
to carry masses of hard money from one quar 
ter of the Union to another. Government drafts 
will make the transfer without moving a dollar. 
A government draft upon a national mint, will 
be the highest order of bills of exchange. Mo 
ney wanted by the government in one place, 
will be exchanged, through merchants, for mo 
ney in another place. Thus it has been for 
thousands of years, and will for ever be. We 
read in Cicero's letters that, when he was Gov 
ernor of Cilicia, in Asia Minor, he directed his 
qucestor to deposit the tribute of the province in 
Antioch, and exchange it for money in Rome 
with merchants engaged in the Oriental trade, 
of which Antioch was one of the emporiums. 
This is the natural course of things, and is too 
obvious to require explanation, or to admit of 
comment. 

We are taunted with these treasury notes ; it 
seems to be matter of triumph that the govern 
ment is reduced to the necessity of issuing them ; 
but with what justice ? And how soon can any 
government that wishes it, emerge from the 
wretchedness of depreciated paper, and stand 
erect on the solid foundations of gold and sil 
ver ? How long will it take any respectable 
government, that so wills it, to accomplish this 
great change ? Our own history, at the close 
of the Revolution, answers the question ; and 
more recently, and more strikingly, the history 
of France answers it also. I speak of the 
French finances from 1800 to 1807 ; from tho 
commencement of the consulate to the peace of 



ANNO 1837. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



63 



Tilsit. This wonderful period is replete with 
instruction on the subject of finance and curren 
cy. The whole period is full of instruction; 
but I can only seize two views the beginning 
and the end and, for the sake of precision, will 
read what I propose to present. I read from 
Bignon, author of the civil and diplomatic his 
tory of France during the consulate and the first 
years of the empire ; written at the testamen 
tary request of the Emperor himself. 

After stating that the expenditures of the re 
public were six hundred millions of francs 
about one hundred and ten millions of dollars 
when Bonaparte became First Consul, the histo 
rian proceeds : 

''''At Ms arrival at power, a sum of 160,000 
francs in money [about $32,000] was all that 



the public chests contained. In the i. 
ty of meeting the current service by the ordina 
ry receipts, the Directorial Government had re 
sorted to ruinous expedients, and had thrown 
into circulation Mils of various values, and 
which sunk upon the spot fifty to eighty per 
cent. A part of the arrearages had been dis 
charged in bills two-thirds on credit, payable to 
the bearer, but which, in fact, the treasury was 
not able to pay when due. The remaining 
third had been inscribed in the great book, un 
der the name of consolidated third. For the 
payment of the forced requisitions to which 
they had been obliged to have recourse, there 
had been issued bills receivable in payment of 
the revenues. Finally, the government, in order 
to satisfy the most imperious wants, gave orders 
upon the receivers general, delivered in advance 
to contractors, which they negotiated before 
they began to fumibh the supplies for which 
they were the payment" 

This, resumed Mr. B., was the condition of 
the French finances when Bonaparte became 
First Consul at the close of the year 1799. The 
currency was in the same condition no spe 
cie a degraded currency of assignats, ruinous 
ly depreciated, and issued as low as ten sous. 
That great man immediately began to restore 
order to the finances, and solidity to the curren 
cy. Happily a peace of three years enabled him 
to complete the great work, before he was called 
to celebrate the immortal campaigns ending at 
Austerlitz, Jena, and Friedland. At the end 
of three years before the rupture of the peace 
of Amiens the finances and the currency were 
restored to order and to solidity ; and, at the 
end of six years, when the vast establishments, 
Mid the internal ameliorations of the imperial 



government, had carried the annual expenses to 
eight hundred millions of francs, about one hun 
dred and sixty millions of dollars; the same 
historian copying the words of the Minister of 
Finance, thus speaks of the treasury, and the 
currency : 

" The resources of the State hate increased 
beyond its wants; the public chests are full; 
all payments are made at the day named ; the 
orders upon the public treasury have become the 
most approved bills of exchange. The finances 
are in the most happy condition ; France alone, 
among all the States of Europe, has no paper 
money." 

"What a picture ! how simply, how powerful 
ly drawn ! and what a change in six years ! 
Public chests full payments made to the day 
orders on the treasury the best bills of exchange 
France alone, of all Europe, having no paper 
money ; meaning no government paper money, 
for there were bank notes of five hundred francs, 
and one thousand francs. A government reve 
nue of one hundred and sixty millions of dollars 
was paid in gold and s.lver ; a hard money cur 
rency, of five hundred and fifty millions of dol 
lars, saturated all parts of France with specie, 
and made gold and silver the every day curren 
cy of every man, woman and child, in the em 
pire. These great results were the work of six 
years, and were accomplished by the simple pro 
cess of gradually requiring hard money pay 
ments gradually calling in the assignats in 
creasing the branch mints to fourteen, and lim 
iting the Bank of France to an issue of large 
notes five hundred francs and upwards. This 
simple process produced these results, and thus 
stands the French currency at this day ; for the 
nation has had the wisdom to leave untouched 
the financial system of Bonaparte. 

I have repeatedly given it as my opinion 
many of my speeches declare it that the 
French currency is the best in the world. It 
has hard money for the government ; hard mo 
ney for the common dealings of the people ; and 
large notes for large transactions. This curren 
cy has enabled France to stand two invasions, 
the ravaging of 300,000 men, two changes of dy 
nasty, and the payment of a milliard of contri 
butions ; and all without any commotion or re 
vulsion in trade. It has saved her from the 
revulsions which have afflicted England and our 
America for so many years. It has saved her 



64 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW 



from expansions, contractions, and ruinous fluc 
tuations of price. It has saved her, for near 
forty years, from a debate on currency. It has 
saved her even from the knowledge of our sweet- 
scented phrases: "sound currency unsound 
currency ; plethoric, dropsical, inflated, bloated ; 
the money market tight to-day a little easier 
this morning ; " and all such verbiage, which 
the haberdashers' boys repeat. It has saved 
France from even a discussion on currency; 
while in England, and with us, it is banks ! 
banks! banks! morning, noon, and night; 
breakfast, dinner, and supper ; levant, and cou- 
chant ; sitting, or standing ; at home, or abroad ; 
steamboat, or railroad car ; in Congress, or out 
of Congress, it is all the same thing : banks 
banks banks ; currency currency curren 
cy; meaning, all the while, paper money and 
shin-plasters ; until our very brains seem as 
if they would be converted into lampblack and 
rags. 

The bill before the Senate dispenses with the 
further use of banks as depositories of the pub 
lic moneys. In that it has my hearty concur 
rence. Four times heretofore, and on four dif 
ferent occasions, I have made propositions to 
accomplish a part of the same purpose. First, 
in proposing an amendment to the deposit bill 
of 1836, by which the mint, and the branch 
mints, were to be included in the list of deposi 
tories ; secondly, in proposing that the public 
moneys here, at the seat of Government, should 
be kept and paid out by the Treasurer ; thirdly, 
by proposing that a preference, in receiving the 
deposits, should be given to such banks as should 
cease to be banks of circulation ; fourthly, in op 
posing the establishment of a bank agency in 
Missouri, and proposing that the moneys there 
should be drawn direct from the hands of the 
receivers. Three of these propositions are now 
included in the bill before the Senate ; and the 
whole object at which they partially aimed is 
fully embraced. I am for the measure fully, 
cordially, earnestly for it. 

Congress has a sacred duty to perform in re 
forming the finances, and the currency ; for the 
ruin of both has resulted from federal legisla 
tion, and federal administration. The States at 
the formation of the constitution, delivered a 
solid currency I will not say sound, for that 
word implies subject to unsoundness, to rotten 
ness, and to death but they delivered a solid 



currency, one not liable to disease, to this fede 
ral government. They started the new govern 
ment fair upon gold and silver. The first act 
of Congress attested this great fact ; for it made 
the revenues payable in gold and silver coin 
only. Thus the States delivered a solid cur 
rency to this government, and they reserved 
the same currency for themselves; and they 
provided constitutional sanctions to guard both. 
The thing to be saved, and the power to save it, 
was given to this government by the States ; 
and in the hands of this government it became 
deteriorated. The first great error was General 
Hamilton's construction of the act of 1789, by 
which he nullified that act, and overturned the 
statute and the constitution together. The 
next great error was the establishment of a na 
tional bank of circulation, with authority to pay 
all the public dues in its own paper. This con 
firmed the overthrow of the constitution, and 
of the statute of 1789 ; and it set the fatal ex 
ample to the States to make banks, and to re 
ceive their paper for public dues, as the United 
States had done. This was the origin of the 
evil this the origin of the overthrow of the 
solid currency which the States had delivered to 
the federal government. It was the Hamilto- 
nian policy that did the mischief; and the state 
of things in 1837, is the natural fruit of that 
policy. It is time for us to quit it to return 
to the constitution and the statute of 1789, and 
to confine the federal Treasury to the hard mo 
ney which was intended for it. 

I repeat, this is a measure of reform, wor 
thy to be called a reformation. It goes back to 
a fundamental abuse, nearly coeval with the 
foundation of the government. Two epochs 
have occurred for the reformation of this abuse ; 
one was lost, the other is now in jeopardy. 
Mr. Madison's administration committed a great 
error at the expiration of the charter of the 
first Bank of the United States, in not reviving 
the currency of the constitution for the federal 
Treasury, and especially the gold currency. 
That error threw the Treasury back upon the 
local bank paper. This paper quickly failed, 
and out of that failure grew the second United 
States Bank. Those who put down the second 
United States Bank, warned by the calamity, 
determined to avoid the error of Mr. Madison's 
administration : they determined to increase 
the stock of specie, and to revive the gold cir- 



ANNO 1837. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



65 



dilation, which had been dead for thirty years. 
The accumulation of eighty millions in the brief 
spare of five years, fifteen millions of it in gold, 
attest the sincerity of their design, and the fa 
cility of its execution. The country was going 
on at the rate of an average increase of twelve 
millions of specie per annum, when the general 
stoppages of the banks in May last, the expor 
tation of specie, and the imposition of irredeem 
able paper upon the government and the peo 
ple, seemed to announce the total failure of the 
plan. But it was a seeming only. The impe 
tus given to the specie policy still prevails, and 
five millions are added to the stock during the 
present fiscal year. So far, then, as the coun 
teraction of the government policy, and the 
suppression of the constitutional currency, might 
have been expected to result from that stop 
page, the calculation seems to be in a fair way 
to be disappointed. The spirit of the people, 
and our hundred millions of exportable produce, 
are giving the victory to the glorious policy of 
our late illustrious President. The other great 
consequences expected to result from that stop 
page, namely, the recharter of the Bank of the 
United States, the change of administration, 
the overthrow of the republican party, and the 
restoration of the federal dynasty, all seem to 
be in the same fair way to total miscarriage ; 
but the objects are too dazzling to be abandoned 
by the party interested, and the destruction of 
the finances and the currency, is still the cher 
ished road to success. The miscalled Bank of 
the United States, the soul of the federal dynas 
ty, and the anchor of its hopes believed by 
many to have been at the bottom of the stop 
pages in May, and known by all to be at the 
head of non-resumption now displays her pol 
icy on this floor ; it is to compel the repetition 
of the error of Mr. Madison's administration ! 
Knowing that from the repetition of this error 
must come the repetition of the catastrophes of 
1814, 1819, and 1837 ; and out of these catas 
trophes to extract a new clamor for the revivi 
fication of herself. This is her line of conduct ; 
and to this line, the conduct of all her friends 
conforms. With one heart, one mind, one 
voice, they labor to cut off gold and silver from 
the federal government, and to impose paper 
upon it ! they labor to deprive it of the keeping 
of its own revenues, and to place them again 
where they have been so often lost ! This is 

VOL. II 5 



the conduct of that bank and its friends. Let 
us imitate their zeal, their unanimity, and their 
perseverance. The amendment and the bilL 
now before the Senate, embodies our policy 
Let us carry them, and the republic is safe. 

The extra session had been called to relieve 
the distress of the federal treasury, and had 
done so by authorizing an issue of treasury 
notes. That object being accomplished, and 
the great measures for the divorce of Bank and 
State, and for the sole use of gold and silver in 
federal payments, having been recommended, 
and commenced, the session adjourned. 



CHAPTER XVI. 

FIKST EEGULAE SESSION UNDER MR. VAN BU- 
REN'S ADMINISTRATION: HIS MESSAGE. 

A BRIEF interval of two months only inter 
vened between the adjournment of the called ses 
sion and the meeting of the regular one ; and the 
general state of the public affairs, both at home 
and abroad, being essentially the same at both 
periods, left no new or extraordinary measures 
for the President to recommend. With foreign 
powers we were on good terms, the settlement 
of all our long-standing complaints under Gen 
eral Jackson's administration having left us 
free from the foreign controversies which gave 
trouble ; and on that head the message had lit 
tle but what was agreeable to communicate. 
Its topics were principally confined to home 
affairs, and that part of these affairs which were 
connected with the banks. That of the United 
States, as it still called itself, gave a new spe 
cies of disregard of moral and legal obligation, 
and presented a new mode of depraving the 
currency and endangering property and con 
tracts, by continuing to issue and to use the 
notes of the expired institution. Its currency 
was still that of the defunct bank. It used the 
dead notes of that institution, for which, of 
course, neither bank was liable. They were 
called resurrection notes ; and their use, besides 
the injury to the currency and danger to prop 
erty, was a high contempt and defiance of the 
authority which had created it ; and called for 
the attention of the federal government. The 



66 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



President, therefore, thus formally brought the 
procedure to the notice of Congress : 

" It was my hope that nothing would occur to 
make necessary, on this occasion, any allusion 
to the late national bank, There are circum 
stances, however, connected with the present 
state of its affairs that bear so directly on the 
character of the government and the welfare of 
the citizen, that I should not feel myself excused 
in neglecting to notice them. The charter which 
terminated its banking privileges on the 4th 
of March, 1836, continued its corporate powers 
two years more, for the sole purpose of closing 
its affairs, with authority * to use the corporate 
name, style, and capacity, for the purpose of 
suits for a final settlement and liquidation of the 
affairs and acts of the corporation, and for the 
sale and disposition of their estate, real, per 
sonal and mixed, but for no other purpose or in 
any other manner whatsoever.' Just before 
the banking privileges ceased, its effects were 
transferred by the bank to a new State institu 
tion then recently incorporated, in trust, for the 
discharge of its debts and the settlement of its 
affairs. With this trustee, by authority of Con 
gress, an adjustment was subsequently made of 
the large interest which the government had in 
the stock of the institution. The manner in 
which a trust unexpectedly created upon the 
act granting the charter, and involving such 
great public interests, has been executed, would, 
under any circumstances, be a fit subject of in 
quiry y but much more does it deserve your at 
tention, when it embraces the redemption of 
obligations to which the authority and credit of 
the United States have given value. The two 
years allowed are now nearly at an end. It is 
well understood that the trustee has not re 
deemed and cancelled the outstanding notes of 
the bank, but has reissued, and is actually re 
issuing, since the 3d of March, 1836, the notes 
which have been received by it to a vast amount. 
According to its own official statement, so late 
as the 1st of October last, nineteen months 
after the banking privileges given by the charter 
had expired, it had under its control uncancelled 
notes of the late Bank of the United States to 
the amount of twenty-seven millions five hun 
dred and sixty-one thousand eight hundred and 
sixty-six dollars, of which six millions one 
hundred and seventy-five thousand eight hun 
dred and sixty-one dollars were in actual circu 
lation, one million four hundred and sixty-eight 
thousand six hundred and twenty-seven dollars 
at State bank agencies, and three millions two 
thousand three hundred and ninety dollars in 
iransitu; thus showing that upwards of ten 
millions and a half of the notes of the old bank 
were then still kept outstanding. The impro 
priety of this procedure is obvious : it being the 
duty of the trustee to cancel and not to put 
forth the notes of an institution, whose concerns 
i had undertaken to wind up. If the trustee 



has a right to reissue these notes now, I can sec 
no reason why it may not continue to do so aftel 
the expiration of the two years. As no one 
could have anticipated a course so extraordinary, 
the prohibitory clause of the charter above 
quoted was not accompanied by any penalty or 
other special provision for enforcing it; nor 
have we any general law for the prevention of 
similar acts in future. 

" But it is not in this view of the subject alone 
that your interposition is required. The United 
States, in settling with the trustee for their 
stock, have withdrawn their funds from their 
former direct ability to the creditors of the old 
bank, yet notes of the institution continue to be 
sent forth in its name, and apparently upon the 
authority of the United States. The transac 
tions connected with the employment of the 
bills of the old bank are of vast extent ; and 
should they result unfortunately, the interests 
of individuals may be deeply compromised. 
"Without undertaking to decide how far, or in 
what form, if any, the trustee could be made 
liable for notes which contain no obligation on 
its part ; or the old bank, for such as are put 
in circulation after the expiration of its char 
ter, and without its authorit}*- ; or the govern 
ment for indemnity, in case of loss, the question 
still presses itself upon your consideration, 
whether it is consistent with duty and good 
faith on the part of the government, to witness 
this proceeding without a single effort to arrest 
it." 

On the subject of the public lands, and the 
most judicious mode of disposing of them a 
question of so much interest to the new States 
the message took the view of those who 
looked to the domain less as a source of revenue 
than as a means of settling and improving the 
country. He recommended graduated prices 
according to the value of the different classes of 
lands in order to facilitate their sale; and a 
prospective permanent pre-emption act to give 
encouragement to settlers. On the first of 
these points he said : 

" Hitherto, after being offered at public sale, 
lands have been disposed of at one uniform 
price, whatever difference there might be in 
their intrinsic value. The leading considera 
tions urged in favor of the measure referred to, 
are, that in almost all the land districts, and par 
ticularly in those in which the lands have been 
long surveyed and exposed to sale, there are 
still remaining numerous and large tracts of 
every gradation of value, from the government 
price downwards ; that these lands will not be 
purchased at the government price, so long as 
better can be conveniently obtained for the same 
amount ; that there are large tracts which even 
the improvements of the adjacent lands will 



ANNO 1838. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



67 



never raise to that price ; and that the present 
uniform price, combined with their irregular 
value, operates to prevent a desirable compact 
ness of settlement in the new States, and to re 
tard the full development of that wise policy on 
which our land system is founded, to the injury 
not only of the several States where the lands 
lie, but of the United States as a whole. 

" The remedy proposed has been a reduction of 
prices according to the length of time the lands 
have been in market, without reference to any 
other circumstances. The certainty that the 
efflux of time would not always in such cases, 
and perhaps not even generally, furnish a true 
criterion of value ; and the probability that per 
sons residing in the vicinity, as the period for 
the reduction of prices approached, would post 
pone purchases they would otherwise make, for 
the purpose of availing themselves of the lower 
price, with other considerations of a similar 
character, have hitherto been successfully urged 
to defeat the graduation upon time. May not 
all reasonable desires upon this subject be satis 
fied without encountering any of these objec 
tions ? All will concede the abstract principle, 
that the price of the public lands should be pro 
portioned to their relative value, so far as that 
can be accomplished without departing from the 
rule, heretofore observed, requiring fixed prices 
in cases of private entries. The difficulty of the 
subject seems to lie in the mode of ascertaining 
what that value is. Would not the safest plan 
be that which has been adopted by many of the 
States as the basis of taxation ; an actual valua 
tion of lands, and classification of them into dif 
ferent rates ? Would it not be practicable and 
expedient to cause the relative value of the pub 
lic lands in the old districts, which have been 
for a certain length of time in market, to be ap 
praised, and classed into two or more rates be 
low the present minimum price, by the officers 
now employed in this branch of the public ser 
vice, or in any other mode deemed preferable, 
and to make those prices permanent, if upon the 
coming in of the report they shall prove satis 
factory to Congress? Cannot all the objects 
of graduation be accomplished in this way, and 
the objections which have hitherto been urged 
against it avoided ? It would seem to me that 
such a step, with a restriction of the sales to 
limited quantities, and for actual improvement, 
would be free from all just exception/* 

A permanent prospective pre-emption law was 
cogently recommended as a measure just in it 
self to the settlers, and not injurious to the pub 
lic Treasury, as experience had shown that the 
auction system that of selling to the highest 
bidder above the prescribed minimum price 
had produced in its aggregate but a few cents 
on the acre above the minimum price. On this 
point he said : 



" A large portion of our citizens have seated 
themselves on the public lands, without authori 
ty, since the passage of the last pre-emption law 
and now ask the enactment of another, to ena 
ble them to retain the lands occupied, upon pay 
ment of the minimum government price. They 
ask that which has been repeatedly granted be 
fore. If the future may be judged of by the past, 
little harm can be done to the interests of the 
Treasury by yielding to their request. Upon 
a critical examination, it is found that the lands 
sold at the public sales since the introduction 
of cash payments in 1820, have produced, on an 
average, the net revenue of only six cents an 
acre more than the minimum government price. 
There is no reason to suppose that future sales 
will be more productive. The government, 
therefore, has no adequate pecuniary interest to 
induce it to drive these people from the lands 
they occupy, for the purpose of selling them to 
others." 

This wise recommendation has since been 
carried into effect, and pre-emptive rights are 
now admitted in all cases where settlements are 
made upon lands to which the Indian title shall 
have been extinguished ; and the graduation of 
the price of the public lands, though a measure 
long delayed, yet prevailed in the end, and was 
made as originally proposed, by reductions ac 
cording to the length of time the land had been 
offered at sale. Beginning at the minimum price 
of $1 25 per acre, the reduction of price went 
down through a descending scale, according to 
time, as low as 12 cents per acre. But this 
was long after. 



CHAPTEK XVII. 

PENNSYLVANIA BANK OF THE UNITED STATES . 
ITS USE OF THE DEFUNCT NOTES OF THE EX 
PIKED INSTITUTION. 

HISTORY gives many instances of armies re 
fusing to be disbanded, and remaining in arms 
in defiance of the authority which created them ; 
but the example of this bank presents, probably, 
the first instance in which a great moneyed cor 
poration refused to be dissolved refused to 
cease its operations after its legal existence had 
expired ; and continued its corporate transac 
tions as if in full life. It has already been shown 
that its proviso charter, at the end of a local 
railroad act, made no difference in its condition 



68 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



that it went on exactly as before. Its use of 
the defunct notes of the expired institution was 
a further instance of this conduct, transcending 
any thing conceived of, and presenting a case of 
danger to the public, and defiance of government, 
which the President had deemed it his duty to 
bring to the attention of Congress, and ask a 
remedy for a proceeding so criminal. Congress 
acted on the recommendation, and a bill was 
brought in to make the repetition of the of 
fence a high misdemeanor, and the officers and 
managers of the institution personally and in 
dividually liable for its commission. In sup 
port of this bill, Mr. Buchanan gave the fullest 
and clearest account of this almost incredible 
misconduct. He said : 

" The charter of the late Bank of the United 
States expired, by its own limitation, on the 3d 
of March, 1836. After that day, it could issue 
no notes, discount no new paper, and exercise 
none of the usual functions of a bank. For 
two years thereafter, until the 3d of March, 
1838, it was merely permitted to use its corpo 
rate name and capacity 'for the purpose of 
suits for the final settlement and liquidation of 
the affairs and accounts of the corporation, and 
for the sale and disposition of their estate, real, 
personal, and mixed ; but not for any other 
purpose, or in any other manner, whatsoever? 
Congress had granted the bank no power to 
make a voluntary assignment of its property 
to any corporation or any individual. On the 
contrary, the plain meaning of the charter was, 
that all the affairs of the institution should be 
wound up by its own president and directors. 
It received no authority to delegate this impor 
tant trust to others, and yet what has it done ? 
On the second day of March, 1836, one day be 
fore the charter had expired, this very president 
and these directors assigned all the property 
and effects of the old corporation to the Penn 
sylvania Bank of the United States. On the 
same day, this latter bank accepted the assign 
ment, and agreed to 'pay, satisfy, and discharge 
all debts, contracts, and engagements, owing, 
entered into, or made by this [the old] bank, 
as the same shall become due and payable, and 
fulfil and execute all trusts and obligations 
whatsoever arising from its transactions, or 
from any of them, so that every creditor or 
rightful claimant shall be fully satisfied.' By 
its own agreement, it has thus expressly cre 
ated itself a trustee of the old bank. But this 
was not necessary to confer upon it that char 
acter. By the bare act of accepting the assign 
ment, it became responsible, under the laws of 
the land, for the performance of all the duties 
and trusts required by the old charter. Under 
the circumstances, it cannot make the slightest 
pretence of any want of notice. 



"Having assumed this responsibility, the 
duty of the new bank was so plain that it 
could not have been mistaken. It had a double 
character to sustain. Under the charter from 
Pennsylvania, it became a new banking corpo 
ration ; whilst, under the assignment from the 
old bank, it became a trustee to wind up the 
concerns of that institution under the Act of 
Congress. These two characters were in their 
nature separate and distinct, and never ought 
to have been blended. For each of these pur 
poses it ought to have kept a separate set of 
books. Above all, as the privilege of circulating 
bank notes, and thus creating a paper currency 
is that function of a bank which most deeply 
and vitally affects the community, the new bank 
ought to have cancelled or destroyed all the 
notes of the old bank which it found in its pos 
session on the 4th of March, 1836, and ought 
to have redeemed the remainder at its counter, 
as they were demanded by the holders, and 
then destroyed them. This obligation no sen 
ator has attempted to doubt, or to deny. But 
what was the course of the bank? It has 
grossly violated both the old and the new char 
ter. It at once declared independence of both, 
and appropriated to itself all the notes of the 
old bank, not only those which were then 
still in circulation, but those which had been 
redeemed before it accepted the assignment, 
and were then lying dead in its vaults. I have 
now before me the first monthly statement 
which was ever made by the Bank to the Au 
ditor-general of Pennsylvania. It is dated oc 
the 2d of April, 1836, and signed J. Cowper- 
thwaite, acting cashier. In this statement, the 
Bank charges itself with 'notes issued/ 
$36,620,420 16; whilst, in its cash account, 
along with its specie and the notes of State 
banks, it credits itself with ' notes of the Bank 
of the United States and offices,' on hand, 
$16,794,713 71. It thus seized these dead 
notes to the amount of $16,794,713 71, and 
transformed them into cash ; whilst the differ 
ence between those on hand and those issued, 
equal to $19,825,706 45, was the circulation 
which the new bank boasted it had inherited 
from the old. It thus, in an instant, appropri 
ated to itself, and adopted as its own circula 
tion, all the notes and all the illegal branch 
drafts of the old bank which were then in exist 
ence. Its boldness was equal to its utter dis 
regard of law. In this first return, it not only 
proclaimed to the Legislature and people of 
Pennsylvania that it had disregarded its trust 
as assignee of the old Bank, by seizing upon 
the whole of the old circulation and converting 
it to its own use, but that it had violated one 
of the fundamental provisions of its new char 
ter." 

Mr. Calhoun spoke chiefly to the question of 
the right of Congress to pass a bill of the tenor 
proposed. Several senators denied that right 



ANNO 1838. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



69 



others supported it among them Mr. Wright, 
Mr. Grundy, Mr. "William H. Roane, Mr. John 
M. Niles, Mr. Clay, of Alabama, and Mr. Cal- 
houn. Some passages from the speech of the 
latter are here given. 

u He [Mr. Calhoun] held that the right pro 
posed to be exercised in this case rested on the 
general power of legislation conferred on Con 
gress, which embraces not only the power of 
making, but that of repealing laws. It was, in 
fact, a portion of the repealing power. No one 
could doubt the existence of the right to do 
either, and that the right of repealing extends 
as well to unconstitutional as constitutional 
laws. The case as to the former was, in fact, 
stronger than the latter ; for, whether a consti 
tutional law should be repealed or not, was a 
question of expediency, which left us free to act 
according to our discretion ; while, in the case 
of an unconstitutional law, it was a matter of 
obligation and duty, leaving no option ; and the 
more unconstitutional, the more imperious the 
obligation and duty. Thus far, there could be 
no doubt nor diversity of opinion. But there 
are many laws, the effects of which do not cease 
with their repeal or expiration, and which re 
quire some additional act on our part to arrest 
or undo them. Such, for instance, is the one in 
question. The charter of the late bank expired 
Borne time ago, but its notes are still in exist 
ence, freely circulating from hand to hand, and 
reissued and banked on by a bank chartered by 
the State of Pennsylvania, into whose posses 
sion the notes of the old bank have passed. In 
a word, our name and authority are used almost 
as freely for banking purposes as they were 
before the expiration of the charter of the late 
bank. Now, he held that the right of arresting 
or undoing these after-effects rested on the 
same principle as the right of repealing a law, 
and, like that, embraces unconstitutional as 
well as constitutional acts, superadding, in the 
case of the former, obligation and duty to right. 
We have an illustration of the truth of this 
principle in the case of the alien and sedition 
acts, which are now conceded on all sides to 
have been unconstitutional. Like the act incor 
porating the late bank, they expired by their 
own limitation ; and, like it, also, their effects 
continued after the period of their expiration. 
Individuals had been tried, convicted, fined, and 
imprisoned under them ; but, so far was their 
unconstitutionality from being regarded as an 
impediment to the right of arresting or undoing 
these effects, that Mr. Jefferson felt himself 
compelled on that very account to pardon those 
who had been fined and convicted under their 
provisions, and we have at this session passed 
on the same ground, an act to refund the money 
paid by one of the sufferers under them. The 
bill is limited to those only who are the trus 
tees, or agents for winding up the concerns ol 
the late bank, and it is those, and those only 



who are subject to the penalties of the bill for 
reissuing its notes. They are, pjo tanto, OUT 
officers, and, to that extent, subject to our juris 
diction, and liable to have their acts controlled 
as far as they relate to the trust or agency con- 
ided to them ; just as much so as receivers or 
collectors of the revenue would be. No one 
can doubt that we could prohibit them from 
passing off any description of paper currency 
;hat might come into their hands in their offi 
cial character. Nor is the right less clear in 
reference to the persons who may be compre 
hended in this bill. Whether Mr. Biddle or 
others connected with this bank are, in fact, 
trustees, or agents, within the meaning of the 
bill, is not a question for us to decide. They 
are not named, nor referred to by description. 
The bill is very properly drawn up in general 
terms, so as to comprehend all cases of the 
kind, and would include the banks of the Dis 
trict, should Congress refuse to re-charter 
them. It is left to the court and jury, to 
whom it properly belongs, to decide, whtn a case 
comes up, whether the party is, or is not, a 
trustee, or agent; and, of course, whether he 
is, or is not, included in the provisions of the 
bill. If he is, he will be subject to Its penal 
ties, but not otherwise ; and it cannot possibly 
affect the question of the constitutionality f 
the bill, whether Mr. Biddle, and others con 
nected with him, are, or are not, comprehended 
in its provisions, and subject to its penalties." 

The bill was severe in its enactments, pre 
scribing both fine and imprisonment for the re 
petition of the offence the fine not to exceed 
ten thousand dollars the imprisonment not to 
be less than one nor more than five years. It 
also gave a preventive remedy in authorizing in 
junctions from the federal courts to prevent the 
circulation of such defunct notes, and proceed 
ings in chancery to compel their surrender for 
cancellation. And to this "complexion" had 
the arrogant institution come which so lately 
held itself to be a power, and a great one, in the 
government now borne on the statute book as 
criminally liable for a high misdemeanor, and 
giving its name to a new species of offence in 
the criminal catalogue exhumer and resurrec 
tionist of defunct notes. And thus ended the 
last question between the federal government 
and this, once so powerful moneyed corpora 
tion ; and certainly any one who reads the his 
tory of that bank as faithfully shown in our 
parliamentary history, and briefly exhibited in 
this historic View, can ever wish to see another 
national bank established in our country, or 
any future connection of any kind between the 
government and the banks. The last struggle 



70 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



between it and the government was now over 
just seven years since that struggle began : 
but its further conduct will extort a further 
notice from history. 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

FLOBIDA INDIAN WAR : ITS ORIGIN AND CON 
DUCT. 

THIS was one of the most troublesome, expen 
sive and unmanageable Indian wars in which 
the United States had been engaged ; and from 
the length of time which it continued, the 
amount of money it cost, and the difficulty of 
obtaining results, it became a convenient handle 
of attack upon the administration ; and in which 
party spirit, in pursuit of its object, went the 
length of injuring both individual and national 
character. It continued about seven years as 
long as the revolutionary war cost some thirty 
millions of money and baffled the exertions of 
several generals ; recommenced when supposed 
to be finished j and was only finally terminated 
by changing military campaigns into an armed 
occupation by settlers. All the opposition 
presses and orators took hold of it, and made 
its misfortunes the common theme of invective 
and declamation. Its origin was charged to the 
oppressive conduct of the administration its 
protracted length to their imbecility its cost 
to their extravagance its defeats to the want 
of foresight and care. The Indians stood for an 
innocent and persecuted people. Heroes and 
patriots were made of their chiefs. Our gene 
rals and troops were decried j applause was 
lavished upon a handful of savages who could 
thus defend their country; and corresponding 
censure upon successive armies which could not 
conquer them. All this going incessantly intc 
the Congress debates and the party newspapers, 
was injuring the administration at home, and 
the country abroad ; and, by dint of iteration 
and reiteration, stood a good chance to become 
history, and to be handed down to posterity. 
At the same time the war was one of flagrant 
tnd cruel aggression on the part of these Indians. 
Their removal to the west of the Mississippi 
was part of the plan for the general removal of 
ill the Indians, and every preparation was com 



plete for their departure by their own agree 
ment, when it was interrupted by a horrible 
act. It was the 28th day of December, 1835, 
that the United States agent in Florida, and 
several others, were suddenly massacred by a 
party under Osceola, who had just been at the 
hospitable table with them : at the same time 
the sutler and others were attacked as they sat 
at table : same day two expresses were killed : 
and to crown these bloody deeds, the same day 
witnessed the destruction of Major Dade's com 
mand of 112 men, on its march from Tampa 
Bay to Withlacootchee. All these massacres 
were surprises, the result of concert, and exe 
cuted as such upon unsuspecting victims. The 
agent (Mr. Thompson), and some friends were 
shot from the bushes while taking a walk near 
his house : the sutler and his guests were shot 
at the dinner table : the express riders were 
waylaid, and shot in the road : Major Dade's 
command was attacked on the march, by an un 
seen foe, overpowered, and killed nearly to the 
last man. All these deadly attacks took place 
on the same day, and at points wide apart 
showing that the plot was as extensive as it was 
secret, and cruel as it was treacherous ; for not a 
soul was spared in either of the four relentless 
attacks. 

It was two days after the event that an in 
fantry soldier of Major Dade's command, ap 
peared at Fort King, on Tampa Bay, from which 
it had marched six days before, and gave infor 
mation of what had happened. The command 
was on the march, in open pine woods, tall grass 
all around, and a swamp on the left flank. The 
grass concealed a treacherous ambuscade. The 
advanced guard had passed, and was cut off. 
Both the advance and the main body were at 
tacked at the same moment, but divided from 
each other. A circle of fire enclosed each fire 
from an invisible foe. To stand, was to be shot 
down : to advance was to charge upon concealed 
rifles. But it was the only course was brave 
ly adopted and many savages thus sprung from 
their coverts, were killed. The officers, coura 
geously exposing themselves, were rapidly shot 
Major Dade early in the action. At the end 
of an hour successive charges had roused the 
savages from the grass, (which seemed to be 
alive with their naked and painted bodies, yell 
ing and leaping,) and driven beyond the range 
of shot. But the command was too much weak- 



ANNO 1838. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



71 



ened for a further operation. The wounded 
were too numerous to be carried along: too 
precious to be left behind to be massacred. The 
battle ground was maintained, and a small band 
had conquered respite from attack : but to ad 
vance or retreat was equally impossible. The 
only resource was to build a small pen of pine 
logs, cut from the forest, collect the wounded 
and the survivors into it, as into a little fort, 
and repulse the assailants as long as possible. 
This was done till near sunset the action hav 
ing began at ten in the morning. By that time 
every officer was dead but one, and he despe 
rately wounded, and helpless on the ground. 
Only two men remained without wounds, and 
they red with the blood of others, spirted upon 
them, or stained in helping the helpless. The 
little pen was filled with the dead and the dying. 
The firing ceased. The expiring lieutenant told 
the survivors he could do no more for them, 
and gave them leave to save themselves as they 
could. They asked his advice. He gave it to 
them ; and to that advice we are indebted for 
the only report of that bloody day's work. He 
advised them all to lay down among the dead 
to remain still and take their chance of being 
considered dead. This advice was followed. All 
became still, prostrate and motionless ; and the 
savages, slowly and cautiously approaching, 
were a long time before they would venture 
within the ghastly pen, where danger might 
still lurk under apparent death. A squad of 
about forty negroes fugitives from the South 
ern States, more savage than the savage were 
the first to enter. They came in with knives 
and hatchets, cutting throats and splitting skulls 
wherever they saw a sign of life. To make sure 
of skipping no one alive, all were pulled and 
handled, punched and kicked ; and a groan or 
movement, an opening of the eye, or even the 
involuntary contraction of a muscle, was an in 
vitation to the knife and the tomahawk. Only 
four of the living were able to subdue sensa 
tions, bodily and mental, and remain without 
sign of feeling under this dreadful ordeal ; and 
two of these received stabs, or blows as many 
of the dead did. Lying still until the search 
was over, and darkness had come on, and the 
butchers were gone, these four crept from among 
their dead comrades and undertook to make 
their way back to Tampa Bay separating into 
two parties for greater safety. The one that 



came in first had a narrow escape. Pursuing a 
path the next day, an Indian on horseback, and 
with a rifle across the saddle bow, met them full 
in the way. To separate, and take the chance 
of a divided pursuit, was the only hope for 
either : and they struck off into opposite direc 
tions. The one to the right was pursued ; and 
very soon the sharp crack of a rifle made known 
his fate to the one that had gone to the left. 
To him it was a warning, that his comrade be 
ing despatched, his own turn came next. It 
was open pine woods, and a running, or stand 
ing man, visible at a distance. The Indian on 
horseback was already in view. Escape by 
flight was impossible. Concealment in the grass, 
or among the palmettos, was the only hope : 
and this was tried. The man laid close: the 
Indian rode near him. He made circles around, 
eyeing the ground far and near. Rising in his 
stirrups to get a wider view, and seeing nothing, 
he turned the head of his horse and galloped 
off the poor soldier having been almost under 
the horse's feet. This man, thus marvellously 
escaping, was the first to bring in the sad re 
port of the Bade defeat followed soon after by 
two others with its melancholy confirmation. 
And these were the only reports ever received 
of that completest of defeats. No officer sur 
vived to report a word. All were killed in their 
places men and officers, each in his place, no 
one breaking ranks or giving back : and when 
afterwards the ground was examined, and events 
verified by signs, the skeletons in their places, 
and the bullet holes in trees and logs, and the 
little pen with its heaps of bones, showed that 
the carnage had taken place exactly as described 
by the men. And this was the slaughter of 
Major Dade and his command of 108 out of 
112: as treacherous, as barbarous, as perse- 
veringly cruel as ever was known. One single 
feature is some relief to the sadness of the pic 
ture, and discriminates this defeat from most 
others suffered at the hands of Indians. There 
were no prisoners put to death ; for no man 
surrendered. There were no fugitives slain in 
vain attempts at flight ; for no one fled. All 
stood, and fought, and fell in their places, re 
turning blow for blow while life lasted. It was 
the death of soldiers, showing that steadiness in 
defeat which is above courage in victory. 

And this was the origin of the Florida Indian 
war: and a more treacherous, ferocious, and 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



cold-blooded origin was never given to any In 
dian war. Yet such is the perversity of party 
spirit that its author the savage Osceola has 
been exalted into a hero-patriot; our officers, 
disparaged and ridiculed; the administration 
loaded with obloquy. And all this by our pub 
lic men in Congress, as well as by writers in the 
daily and periodical publications. The future 
historian who should take these speeches and 
publications for their guide, (and they are too 
numerous and emphatic to be overlooked,) 
would write a history discreditable to our arms, 
and reproachful to our justice. It would be a 
narrative of wickedness and imbecility on our 
part of patriotism and heroism on the part of 
the Indians: those Indians whose very name 
(Seminole wild,) define them as the fugitives 
from all tribes, and made still worse than fugi 
tive Indians by a mixture with fugitive negroes, 
some of whom became their chiefs. It was to 
obviate the danger of such a history as that 
would be, that the author of this View delivered 
at the time, and in the presence of all concerned, 
an historical speech on the Florida Indian war, 
fortified by facts, and intended to stand for 
true ; and which has remained unimpeached. 
Extracts from that speech will constitute the 
next chapter, to which this brief sketch will 
serve as a preface and introduction. 



CHAPTER XIX. 

FLORIDA INDIAN WAE : HISTOEICAL SPEECH OF 
ME. BENTON 

A SENATOR from New Jersey [Mr. SOUTHARD] 
has brought forward an accusation which must 
affect the character of the late and present ad 
ministrations at home, and the character of the 
country abroad; and which, justice to these 
administrations, and to the country, requires 
to be met and answered upon the spot. That 
senator has expressly charged that a fraud was 
committed upon the Florida Indians in the 
treaty negotiated with them for their removal 
to the West ; that the war which has ensued 
was the consequence of this fraud ; and that 
our government was responsible to the moral 
sense of the community, and of the world, for 



all the blood that has been shed, and for all tha 
money that has been expended, in the prosecu 
tion of this war. This is a heavy accusation. 
At home, it attaches to the party in power, and 
is calculated to make them odious ; abroad, it 
attaches to the country, and is calculated to 
blacken the national character. It is an accu 
sation, without the shadow of a foundation ! 
and, both, as one of the party in power, and as 
an American citizen, I feel myself impelled by an 
imperious sense of duty to my friends, and to 
my country, to expose its incorrectness at once, 
and to vindicate the government, and the coun 
try, from an imputation as unfounded as it ia 
odious. 

The senator from New Jersey first located 
this imputed fraud in the Payne's Landing 
treaty, negotiated by General Gadsden, in Flor 
ida, in the year 1832 ; and, after being tendered 
an issue on the fairness and generosity of that 
treaty by the senator from Alabama [Mr. 
CLAY], he transferred the charge to the Fort 
Gibson treaty, made in Arkansas, in the year 
1833, by Messrs. Stokes, Ellsworth and Scher- 
merhorn. This was a considerable change of 
locality, but no change in the accusation itself; 
the two treaties being but one, and the last be 
ing a literal performance of a stipulation con 
tained in the first. These are the facts ; and, 
after stating the case, I will prove it as stated. 
This is the statement : The Seminole Indians in 
Florida being an emigrant band of the Creeks, 
and finding game exhausted, subsistence diffi 
cult, and white settlements approaching, con 
cluded to follow the mother tribe, the Creeks, 
to the west of the Mississippi, and to reunite 
with them. This was conditionally agreed to 
be done at the Payne's Landing treaty ; and in 
that treaty it was stipulated that a deputation 
of Seminole chiefs, under the sanction of the 
government of the United States, should pro 
ceed to the Creek country beyond the Missis 
sippi there to ascertain first whether a suita 
ble country could be obtained for them there ; 
and, secondly, whether the Creeks would re 
ceive them back as a part of their confederacy : 
and if the deputation should be satisfied on 
these two points, then the conditional obliga 
tion to remove, contained in the Payne's Land 
ing treaty, to become binding and obligatory 
upon the Seminole tribe. The deputation went ; 
the two points were solved in the affirmative 



ANNO 1838. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



the obligation to remove became absolute on the 
part of the Indians ; and the government of 
the United States commenced preparations for 
effecting their easy, gradual, and comfortable 
removal. 

The entire emigration was to be completed 
in three years, one-third going annually, com 
mencing in the year 1833, and to be finished in 
the years 1834, and 1835. The deputation sent 
to the west of the Mississippi, completed their 
agreement with the Creeks on the 28th of 
March, 1833 ; they returned home immediately, 
and one-third of the tribe was to remove that 
year. Every thing was got ready on the part 
of the United States, both to transport the In 
dians to their new homes, and to subsist them 
for a year after their arrival there. But, in 
stead of removing, the Indians began to invent 
excuses, and to interpose delays, and to pass 
off the time without commencing the emigra 
tion. The year 1833, in which one-third of the 
tribe were to remove, passed off without any 
removal ; the year 1834, in which another third 
was to go, was passed off in the same manner ; 
the year 1835, in which the emigration was to 
have been completed, passed away, and the emi 
gration was not begun. On the contrary, on 
the last days of the last month of that year, 
while the United States was still peaceably urg 
ing the removal, an accumulation of treacherous 
and horrible assassinations and massacres were 
committed. The United States agent, General 
Thompson, Lieutenant Smith, of the artillery, 
and five others, were assassinated in sight of 
Fort King ; two expresses were murdered ; and 
Major Dade's command was massacred. 

In their excuses and pretexts for not remov 
ing, the Indians never thought of the reasons 
which have been supplied to them on this floor. 
They never thought of alleging fraud. Their 
pretexts were frivolous ; as that it was a long 
distance, and that bad Indians lived in that 
country, and that the old treaty of Fort Moul- 
trie allowed them twenty years to live in Flor 
ida, Their real motive was the desire of blood 
and pillage on the part of many Indians, and 
still more on the part of the five hundred run 
away negroes mixed up among them ; and who 
believed that they could carry on their system 
of robbery and murder with impunity, and that 
the swamps of the country would for ever pro 
tect them against the pursuit of the whites. 



This, Mr. President, is the plain and brief 
narrative of the causes which led to the Semi- 
nole war ; it is the brief historical view of the 
case ; and if I was speaking under ordinary cir 
cumstances, and in reply to incidental remarks, 
I should content myself with this narrative, 
and let the question go to the country upon the 
strength and credit of this statement. But I 
do not speak under ordinary circumstances j I 
am not replying to incidental and casual re 
marks. I speak in answer to a formal accusa 
tion, preferred on this floor ; I speak to defend 
the late and present administrations from an 
odious charge ; and, in defending them, to vin 
dicate the character of our country from the 
accusation of the senator from New Jersey 
[Mr. SOUTHARD], and to show that fraud has 
not been committed upon these Indians, and 
that the guilt of a war, founded in fraud, is not 
justly imputable to them. 

The Seminoles had stipulated that the agent, 
Major Phagan, and their own interpreter, the 
negro Abraham, should accompany them ; and 
this was done. It so happened, also, that an ex 
traordinary commission of three members sent 
out by the United States to adjust Indian diffi 
culties generally, was then beyond the Missis 
sippi; and these commissioners were directed 
to join in the negotiations on the part of the 
United States, and to give the sanction of our 
guarantee to the agreements made between the 
Seminoles and the Creeks for the reunion of the 
former to the parent tribe. This was done. 
Our commissioners, Messrs. Stokes, Ellsworth, 
and Schermerhorn, became party to a treaty 
with the Creek Indians for the reunion of the 
Seminoles, made at Fort Gibson, tiie 14th 01 
February, 1833. The treaty contained this 
article : 

" ARTICLE IV. It is understood and agreed 
that the Seminole Indians of Florida, whose re 
moval to this country is provided for by their 
treaty with the United States, dated May 9, 
1832, shall also have a permanent and comfort 
able home on the lands hereby set apart as the 
country of the Creek nation; and they, the 
Seminoles, will hereafter be considered as a con 
stituent part of the said nation, but are to be 
located on some part of the Creek country by 
themselves, which location shall be selected for 
them by the commissioners who have seen these 
articles of agreement." 

This agreement with the Creeks settled one 
of the conditions on which the removal of the 



74 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



Seminoles was to depend. We will now see 
how the other condition was disposed of. 

In a treaty made at the same Fort Gibson, on 
the 28th of March, 1833, between the same 
three commissioners on the part of the United 
States, and the seven delegated Seminole chiefs, 
after reciting the two conditions precedent con 
tained in the Payne's Landing treaty, and re 
citing, also, the convention with the Creeks on 
the 14th of February preceding, it is thus stipu 
lated : 

" Now, therefore, the commissioners aforesaid, 
by virtue of the power and authority vested in 
them by the treaty made with the Creek Indians 
on the 14th of February, 1833, as above stated, 
hereby designate and assign to the Seminole 
tribe of Indians, for their separate future resi 
dence for ever, a tract of country lying between 
the Canadian River and the south fork thereof, 
and extending west to where a line running 
north and south between the main Canadian 
and north branch will strike the forks of Little 
River; provided said west line does not extend 
more than twenty-five miles west from the 
mouth of said Little River. And the under 
signed Seminole chiefs, delegated as aforesaid, 
on behalf of the nation, hereby declare them 
selves well satisfied with the location provided 
for them by the commissioners, and agree that 
their nation shall commence the removal to their 
new home as soon as the government will make 
the arrangements for their emigration satisfac 
tory to the Seminole nation." 

This treaty is signed by the delegation, and 
by the commissioners of the United States, and 
witnessed, among others, by the same Major 
Phagan, agent, and Abraham, interpreter, whose 
presence was stipulated for at Payne's Landing. 

Thus the two conditions on which the re 
moval depended, were complied with; they 
were both established in the affirmative. The 
Creeks, under the solemn sanction and guarantee 
of the United States, agree to receive back the 
Seminoles as a part of their confederacy, and 
agree that they shall live adjoining them on 
lands designated for their residence. The dele 
gation declare themselves well satisfied with the 
country assigned them, and agree that the re 
moval should commence as soon as the United 
States could make the necessary arrangements 
for the removal of the people. 

This brings down the proof to the conclusion 
of all questions beyond the Mississippi; it 
brings it down to the conclusion of the treaty 
it Fort Gibson that treaty in which the sena 



tor from New Jersey [Mr. SOUTHARD] has 
located the charge of fraud, after withdrawing 
the same charge from the Payne's Landing 
treaty. It brings us to the end of the negotia 
tions at the point selected for the charge ; and 
now how stands the accusation ? How stands 
the charge of fraud? Is there a shadow, an 
atom, a speck, of foundation on which to rest 
it? No, sir: Nothing nothing nothing! 
Every thing was done that was stipulated for ; 
done by the persons who were to do it ; and 
done in the exact manner agreed upon. In fact, 
the nature of the things to be done west of the 
Mississippi was such as not to admit of fraud. 
Two things were to be done, one to be seen 
w jth the eyes, and the other to be heard with 
the ears. The deputation was to see their new 
country, and say whether they liked it. This 
was a question to their own senses to their 
own eyes and was not susceptible of fraud. 
They were to hear whether the Creeks would 
receive them back as a part of their confederacy; 
this was a question to their own ears, and was 
also unsusceptible of fraud. Their own eyes 
could not deceive them in looking at land ; their 
own ears could not deceive them in listening to 
their own language from the Creeks. No, sir : 
there was no physical capacity, or moral means, 
for the perpetration of fraud ; and none has ever 
been pretended by the Indians from that day 
to this. The Indians themselves have never 
thought of such a thing. There is no assump 
tion of a deceived party among them. It is not 
a deceived party that is at war a party de 
ceived by the delegation which went to the "West 
but that very delegation itself, with the ex 
ception of Charley Emarthla, are the hostile 
leaders at home ! This is reducing the accusa 
tion to an absurdity. It is making the delega 
tion the dupes of their own e} r es and of their 
own ears, and then going to war with the 
United States, because their own eyes deceived 
them in looking at land on the Canadian River, 
and their own ears deceived them in listening to 
their own language from the Creeks ; and then 
charging these frauds upon the United States. 
All this is absurd ; and it is due to these absent 
savages to say that they never committed any 
such absurdity that they never placed their 
objection to remove upon any plea of deception 
practised upon them beyond the Mississippi, 
but on frivolous pretexts invented long after 



ANNO 1838. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



the return of the delegation; which pretexts 
covered the real grounds growing out of the 
influence of runaway slaves, and some evilly 
disposed chiefs, and that thirst for blood and 
plunder, in which they expected a long course 
of enjoyment and impunity in their swamps, 
believed to be impenetrable to the whites. 

Thus, sir, it is clearly and fully proved that 
there was no fraud practised upon these Indi 
ans ; that they themselves never pretended such 
a thing ; and that the accusation is wholly a 
charge of recent origin sprung up among our 
selves. Having shown that there was no fraud, 
this might be sufficient for the occasion, but 
having been forced into the inquiry, it may be 
as well to complete it by showing what were 
the causes of this war. To understand these 
causes, it is necessary to recur to dates, to see 
the extreme moderation with which the United 
States acted, the long time which they tolerated 
the delays of the Indians, and the treachery and 
murder with which their indulgence and for 
bearance was requited. The emigration was to 
commence in 1833. and be completed in the 
years 1834 and 1835. The last days of the last 
month of this last year had arrived, and the emi 
gration had not yet commenced. Wholly in 
tent on their peaceable removal, the administra 
tion had despatched a disbursing agent, Lieu 
tenant Harris of the army, to take charge of the 
expenditures for the subsistence of these people. 
He arrived at Fort King on the afternoon of the 
28th of December, 1835 ; and as he entered the 
fort, he became almost an eye-witness of a horrid 
scene which was the subject of his first despatch 
to his government. He describes it in these words: 

" I regret that it becomes my first duty after 
my arrival here to be the narrator of a story, 
which it will be, I am sure, as painful for you 
to hear, as it is for me, who was almost an eye 
witness to the bloody deed, to relate to you. 
Our excellent superintendent, General Wiley 
Thompson, has been most cruelly murdered by 
a party of the hostile Indians, and with him 
Lieutenant Constant Smith, of the 2d regiment 
of artillery, Erastus Rogers, the suttler to the 
post, with his t\vo clerks, a Mr. Kitzler, and a 
boy called Robert. This occurred on the after 
noon of the 28th instant (December), between 
three and four o'clock. On the day of the mas 
sacre, Lieutenant Smith had dined with the 
General, and after dinner invited him to take a 
short stroll with him. They had not proceeded 
more than three hundred yards beyond the 



agency office, when they were fired upon by a 
party of Indians, who rose from ambush in the 
hammock, within sight of the fort, and on which 
the suttler's house borders. The reports of the 
rifles fired, the war-whoop twice repeated, and 
after a brief space, several other volleys more 
remote, and in the quarter of Mr. Rogers's house, 
were heard, and the smoke of the firing seen 
from the fort. Mr. Rogers and his clerks were 
surprised at dinner. Three escaped : the rest 
murdered. The bodies of General Thompson, 
Lieutenant Smith, and Mr. Kitzler, were soon 
found and brought in. Those of the others 
were not found until this morning. That of 
General Thompson was perforated with fourteen 
bullets. Mr. Rogers had received seventeen. 
All were scalped, except the boy. The coward 
ly murderers are supposed to be a party of Mi- 
casookees, 40 or 50 strong, under the traitor 
Powell (Osceola), whose shrill, peculiar war- 
whoop, was recognized by our interpreters, and 
the one or two friendly Indians we have in the 
fort, and who knew it well. Two expresses 
(soldiers) were despatched upon fresh horses on 
the evening of this horrid tragedy, with tidings 
of it to General Clinch; but not hearing from 
him or them, we conclude they were cut off. 
We are also exceedingly anxious for the fate of 
the two companies (under Major Dade) which 
had been ordered up from Fort Brooke, and of 
whom we learn nothing." 

, Sir, this is the first letter of the disbursing 
agent, specially detached to furnish the supplies 
to the emigrating Indians. He arrives in the 
midst of treachery and murder ; and his first 
letter is to announce to the government the as 
sassination of their agent, an officer of artillery, 
and five citizens ; the assassination of two ex 
presses, for they were both waylaid and mur 
dered ; and the massacre of one hundred and 
twelve men and officers under Major Dade. All 
this took place at once ; and this was the be 
ginning of the war. Up to that moment the 
government of the United States were wholly 
employed in preparing the Indians for removal, 
recommending them to go, and using no force or 
violence upon them. This is the way the war 
was brought on ; this is the way it began ; an'd 
was there ever a case in which a government 
was so loudly called upon to avenge the dead, 
to protect the living, and to cause itself to be 
respected by punishing the contemners of its 
power ? The murder of the agent was a double 
offence, a peculiar outrage to the government 
whose representative he was, and a violation 
even of the national law of savages. Agents are 
seldom murdered even by savages ; and bound 



76 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



as every government is to protect all its citizens, 
it is doubly bound to protect its agents and re 
presentatives abroad. Here, then, is a govern 
ment agent, and a military officer, five citizens, 
two expresses, and a detachment of one hundred 
and twelve men, in all one hundred and twenty- 
one persons, treacherously and inhumanly mas 
sacred in one day ! and because General Jack 
son's administration did not submit to this hor 
rid outrage, he is charged with the guilt of a 
war founded in fraud upon innocent and unof 
fending Indians ! Such is the spirit of opposi 
tion to our own government ! such the love of 
Indians and contempt of whites ! and such the 
mawkish sentimentality of the day in which we 
live a sentimentality which goes moping and 
sorrowing about in behalf of imaginary wrongs 
to Indians and negroes, while the whites them 
selves are the subject of murder, robbery and 
defamation. 

The prime mover in all this mischief, and the 
leading agent in the most atrocious scene of it, 
was a half-blooded Indian of little note before 
this time, and of no consequence in the councils 
of his tribe j for his name is not to be seen in the 
treaty either of Payne's Landing or Fort Gibson. 
We call him Powell ; by his tribe he was called 
Osceola. He led the attack in the massacre of 
the agent, and of those who were killed with 
him, in the afternoon of the 28th of December. 
The disbursing agent, whose letter has been 
read, in his account of that massacre, applies the 
epithet traitor to the name of this Powell. Well 
might he apply that epithet to that assassin ; 
for he had just been fed and caressed by the 
very person whom he waylaid and murdered. 
He had come into the agency shortly before that 
time with seventy of his followers, professed his 
satisfaction with the treaty, his readiness to re 
move, and received subsistence and supplies for 
himself and all his party. The most friendly 
relations seemed to be established ; and the 
doomed and deceived agent, in giving his ac 
count of it to the government, says : " The re 
sult was that we closed with the utmost good 
feeling ; and I have never seen Powell and the 
other chiefs so cheerful and in so fine a humor, 
at the close of a discussion upon the subject of 
removal." 

This is Powell (Osceola), for whom all our 
sympathies are so pathetically invoked ! a 
treacherous assassin, not only of our people, but 



of his own for he it was who waylaid, and shot 
in the back, in the most cowardly manner, the 
brave chief Charley Emarthla, whom he dared 
not face, and whom he thus assassinated because 
he refused to join him and his runaway negroes 
in murdering the white people. The collector 
of Indian curiosities and portraits, Mr. Catlin, 
may be permitted to manufacture a hero out of 
this assassin, and to make a poetical scene of 
his imprisonment on Sullivan's island; but it 
will not do for an American senator to take the 
same liberties with historical truth and our na 
tional character. Powell ought to have been 
hung for the assassination of General Thomp 
son ; and the only fault of our officers is, that 
they did not hang him the moment they caught 
him. The fate of Arbuthnot and Ambrister was 
due to him a thousand times over. 

I have now answered the accusation of the 
senator from New Jersey [Mr. SOUTHARD]. I 
have shown the origin of this war. I have shown 
that it originated in no fraud, no injustice, no 
violence, on the part of this government, but in 
the thirst for blood and rapine on the part of 
these Indians, and in their confident belief that 
their swamps would be their protection against 
the pursuit of the whites ; and that, emerging 
from these fastnesses to commit robbery and 
murder, and retiring to them to enjoy the fruits 
of their marauding expeditions, they had before 
them a long perspective of impunity in the en 
joyment of their favorite occupation. This I 
have shown to be the cause of the war ; and 
having vindicated the administration and the 
country from the injustice of the imputation 
cast upon them, I proceed to answer some 
things said by a senator from South Carolina 
[Mr. PRESTON], which tended to disparage the 
troops generally which have been employed in 
Florida ; to disparage a particular general offi 
cer, and also to accuse that general officer of a 
particular and specified offence. That senator 
has decried our troops in Florida for the gene 
ral inefficiency of their operations ; he has de 
cried General Jesup for the general imbecility 
of his operations, and he has charged this Gen 
eral with the violation of a flag, and the com 
mission of a perfidious act, in detaining and im 
prisoning the Indian Powell, who came into his 
camp. 

I think there is great error and great injus 
tice in all these imputations, and that it is right 



ANNO 1838. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



for some senator on this floor to answer them. 
My position, as chairman of the Committee on 
Military Affairs, would seem to assign that 
duty to me, and it may be the reason why 
others who have spoken have omitted all reply 
on these points. Be that as it may, I feel im 
pelled to say something in behalf of those who 
are absent, and cannot speak for themselves 
those who must always feel the wound of un 
merited censure, and must feel it more keenly 
when the blow that inflicts the wound falls 
from the elevated floor of the American Senate. 
So far as the army, generally, is concerned in 
this censure, I might leave them where they 
have been placed by the senator from South 
Carolina [Mr. PRESTON], and others on that side 
of the House, if I could limit myself to acting a 
political part here. The army, as a body, is no 
friend of the political party to which I belong. 
Individuals among them are friendly to the ad 
ministration; but, as a body, they go for the 
opposition, and would terminate our political 
existence, if they could, and put our opponents 
in our place, at the first general election that 
intervenes. Asa politician, then, I might aban 
don them to the care of their political friends ; 
but, as an American, as a senator, and as hav 
ing had some connection with the military pro 
fession, I feel myself called upon to dissent from 
the opinion which has been expressed, and to 
give my reasons for believing that the army has 
not suffered, and ought not to suffer, in charac 
ter, by the events in Florida. True, our offi 
cers and soldiers have not performed the same 
feats there which they performed in Canada,, and 
elsewhere. But why ? Certainly because they 
have not got the same, or an equivalent, theatre 
to act upon, nor an enemy to cope with over 
whom brilliant victories can be obtained. The 
peninsula of Florida, where this war rages, is 
sprinkled all over with swamps, hammocks, 
and lagoons, believed for three hundred years 
to be impervious to the white man's tread. 
The theatre of war is of great extent, stretching 
over six parallels of latitude ; all of it in the 
sultry region below thirty-one degrees of north 
latitude. The extremity of this peninsula ap 
proaches the tropic of Capricorn ; and at this 
moment, while we speak here, the soldier under 
arms at mid-day there will cast no shadow : a 
vertical sun darts its fiery rays direct upon the 
crown of his head. Suffocating heat oppresses 
the frame ; annoying insects sting the body ; 



burning sands, a spongy morass, and the sharp 
cutting saw grass, receive the feet and legs ; 
disease follows the summer's exertion ; and a 
dense foliage covers the foe. Eight months in 
the year military exertions are impossible; 
during four months only can any thing be 
done. The Indians well understand this ; and, 
during these four months, either give or receive 
an attack, as they please, or endeavor to con 
sume the season in wily parleys. The possi 
bility of splendid military exploits does not 
exist in such a country, and against such a foe : 
but there is room there, and ample room there, 
f or the exhibition of the highest qualities of the 
soldier. There is room there for patience, and 
for fortitude, under every variety of suffering, 
and under every form of privation. There is 
room there for courage and discipline to exhibit 
itself against perils and trials which subject 
courage and discipline to the severest tests. 
And has there been any failure of patience, for 
titude, courage, discipline, and subordination in 
all this war ? Where is the instance in which 
the men have revolted against their officers, or 
in which the officer has deserted his men? 
Where is the instance of a flight in battle? 
Where the instance of orders disobeyed, ranks 
broken, or confusion of corps? On the con 
trary, we have constantly seen the steadiness, 
and the discipline, of the parade maintained 
under every danger, and in the presence of 
massacre itself. Officers and men have fought 
it out where they were told to fight; they 
have been killed in the tracks in which they 
were told to stand. None of those pitiable 
scenes of which all our Indian wars have shown 
some those harrowing scenes in which the 
helpless prisoner, or the hapless fugitive, is 
massacred without pity, and without resist 
ance : none of these have been seen. Many 
have perished; but it was the death of the 
combatant in arms, and not of the captive cr 
the fugitive. In no one of our savage wars 
have our troops so stood together, and con 
quered together, and died together, as they 
have done in this one; and this standing to 
gether is the test of the soldier's character. 
Steadiness, subordination, courage, discipline, 
these are the test of the soldier ; and in no in 
stance have our troops, or any troops, ever 
evinced the possession of these qualities in a 
higher degree than during the campaigns in 
Florida. While, then, brilliant victories may 



78 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW 



not have been seen, and, in fact, were impossi 
ble, yet the highest qualities of good soldier 
ship have been eminently displayed throughout 
this war. Courage and discipline have shown 
themselves, throughout all its stages, in their 
noblest forms. 

From the general imputation of inefficiency 
in our operations in Florida, the senator from 
South Carolina [Mr. PRESTON] comes to a par 
ticular commander, and charges inefficiency 
specifically upon him. This commander is 
General Jesup. The senator from South Caro 
lina has been lavish, and even profuse, in his 
denunciation of that general, and has gone so 
far as to talk about military courts of inquiry. 
Leaving the general open to all such inquiry, 
and thoroughly convinced that the senator 
from South Carolina has no idea of moving 
such inquiry, and intends to rest the effect of 
his denunciation upon its delivery here, I shall 
proceed to answer him here giving speech for 
speech on this floor, and leaving the general 
himself to reply when it comes to that threat 
ened inquiry, which I undertake to affirm will 
never be moved. 

General Jesup is charged with imbecility 
and inefficiency ; the continuance of the war is 
imputed to his incapacity ; and he is held up 
here, on the floor of the Senate, to public repre 
hension for these imputed delinquencies. This 
is the accusation ; and now let us see with how 
much truth and justice it is made. Happily 
for General Jesup, this happens to be a case in 
which we have data to go upon, and in which 
there are authentic materials for comparing the 
operations of himself with those of other gen 
erals his predecessors in the same field with 
whose success the senator from South Carolina 
is entirely satisfied. Dates and figures furnish 
this data and these materials; and, after re 
freshing the memory of the Senate with a few 
dates, I will proceed to the answers which the 
facts of the case supply. The first date is, as 
to the time of the commencement of this war ; 
the second, as to the time that General Jesup 
assumed the command ; the third, as to the 
time when he was relieved from the command. 
On the first point, it will be recollected that 
the war broke out upon the assassination of 
General Thompson, the agent, Lieutenant 
Smith, who was with him ; the sutler and his 
clerks ; the murder of thue two expresses ; and 
the massacre of Majoi Dade's command; 



events which came together in point of time, 
and compelled an immediate resort to war by 
the United States. These assassinations, these 
murders, and this massacre, took place on the 
28th day of December, 1835. The commence 
ment of the war, then, dates from that day. 
The next point is, the time of General Jesup's 
appointment to the command. This occurred 
in December, 1836. The third point is, the 
date of General Jesup's relief from the com 
mand, and this took place in May, of the pres 
ent year, 1838. The war has then continued 
counting to the present time two years and a 
half; and of that period, General Jesup has had 
command something less than one year and a 
half. Other generals had command for a year 
before he was appointed in that quarter. Now, 
how much had those other generals done ? All 
put together, how much had they done ? And 
I ask this question not to disparage their meri 
torious exerti}ns, but to obtain data for the 
vindication of the officer now assailed. The 
senator from South Carolina [Mr. PRESTON] is 
satisfied with the operations of the previous 
commanders ; now let him see how the opera 
tions of the officer whom he assails will com 
pare with the operations of those who are hon 
ored with his approbation. The comparison is 
brief and mathematical. It is a problem in the 
exact sciences. General Jesup reduced the 
hostiles in the one year and a half of his com 
mand, 2,200 souls : all his predecessors together 
had reduced them 150 in one year. Where 
does censure rest now ? 

Sir, I disparage nobody. I make no exhibit 
of comparative results to undervalue the opera 
tions of the previous commanders in Florida. I 
know the difficulty of military operations there, 
and the ease of criticism here. I never assailed 
those previous commanders; on the contrary, 
often pointed out the nature of the theatre on 
which they operated as a cause for the miscar 
riage of expeditions, and for the want of brilliant 
and decisive results. Now for the first time I 
refer to the point, and, not to disparage others, 
but to vindicate the officer assailed. His vindi 
cation is found in the comparison of results be 
tween himself and his predecessors, and in the 
approbation of the senator from South Carolina 
of the results under the predecessors of General 
Jesup. Satisfied with them, he must be satis 
fied with him ; for the difference is as fifteen tc 
one in favor of the decried general. 



ANNO 1838. MARHN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



Besides the general denunciation for ineffi 
ciency, which the senator from South Carolina 
has lavished upon General Jesup, and which de 
nunciation has so completely received its answer 
in this comparative statement; besides this 
general denunciation, the senator from South 
Carolina brought forward a specific accusation 
against the honor of the same officer an accusa 
tion of perfidy, and of a violation of flag of 
truce, in the seizure and detention of the Indian 
Osceola, who had come into his camp. On the 
part of General Jesup, I repel this accusation, 
and declare his whole conduct in relation to this 
Indian, to have been justifiable, under the laws 
of civilized or savage warfare ; that it was ex 
pedient in point of policy ; and that if any 
blame could attach to the general, it would be 
for the contrary of that with which he is 
blamed ; it would be for an excess of forbear 
ance and indulgence. 

The justification of the general for the seizure 
and detention of this half-breed Indian, is the first 
point ; and that rests upon several and distinct 
grounds, either of which fully justifies the act. 

1. This Osceola had broken his parole; and, 
therefore, was liable to be seized and detained. 

The facts were these : In the month of May, 
1837, this chief, with his followers, went into 
Fort Mellon, under the cover of a white flag, and 
there surrendered to Lieutenant Colonel Har- 
ney. He declared himcelf done with the war, 
and ready to emigrate to the west of the Missis 
sippi, and solicited subsistence and transporta 
tion for himself and his people for that purpose. 
Lieutenant Colonel Harney received him, sup 
plied him with provisions, and, relying upon his 
word and apparent sincerity, instead of sending 
him under guard, took his parole to go to Tampa 
Bay, the place at which he preferred to embark, 
to take shipping there for the West. Supplied 
with every thing, Osceola and his people left 
Fort Mellon, under the pledge to go to Tampa 
Bay. He never went there ! but returned to the 
hostiles ; and it was afterwards ascertained that 
he never had any idea of going West, but merely 
wished to live well for a while at the expense 
of the whites, examine their strength and posi 
tion, and return to his work of blood and pillage. 
After this, he had the audacity to approach 
General Jesup's camp in October of the same 
year, with another piece of white cloth over his 
head, thinking, after his successful treacheries to 
the agent^ General Thompson, and Lieut. Colone 



Harney, that there was no end to his tricks 
upon white people. General Jesup ordered him 
to be seized and carried a prisoner to Sullivan's 
Island, where he was treated with the greatest 
humanity, and allowed every possible indulgence 
and gratification. This is one of the reasons in 
justification of General Jesup's conduct to that 
Indian, and it is sufficient of itself; but there 
are others, and they shall be stated. 

2. Osceola had violated an order in coming 
in, with a view to return to the hostiles ; and, 
therefore, was liable to be detained. 

The facts were these : Many Indians, at dif 
ferent times, had come in under the pretext of 
a determination to emigrate ; and after receiv 
ing supplies, and viewing the strength and po 
sition of the troops, returned again to the hos 
tiles, and carried on the war with renewed vigor. 
This had been done repeatedly. It was making 
a mockery of the white flag, and subjecting our 
officers to ridicule as well as to danger. Gen 
eral Jesup resolved to put an end to these 
treacherous and dangerous visits, by which spies 
and enemies obtained access to the bosom of his 
camp. He made known to the chief, Coi Hadjo, 
his determination to that effect. In August, 
1837, he declared peremptorily to this chief, for 
the information of all the Indians, that none 
were to come in, except to remain, and to emi 
grate ; that no one coming into his camp again 
should be allowed to go out of it, but should be 
considered as having surrendered with a view 
to emigrate under the treaty, and should be de 
tained for that purpose. In October, Osceola 
came in, in violation of that order, and was de 
tained in compliance with it. This is a second 
reason for the justification of General Jesup, and 
is of itself sufficient to justify him ; but there 
is more justification yet, and I will state it. 

3. Osceola had broken a truce, and, there 
fore, was liable to be detained whenever he 
could be taken. 

The facts were these : The hostile chiefs en 
tered into an agreement for a truce at Fort 
King, in August, 1837, and agreed : 1. Not to 
commit any act of hostility upon the whites ; 
2. Not to go east of the St. John's river, or 
north of Fort Mellon. This truce was broken 
by the Indians in both points. A citizen was 
killed by them, and they passed both to thf 
east of the St. John's and far north of Fort Mel 
lon. As violators of this truce, General Jesup 
had a right to detain any of the hostiles which 



80 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



came into his hands, and Osceola was one of 
these. 

Here, sir, are three grounds of justification, 
either of them sufficient to justify the conduct 
of General Jesup towards Powell, as the gen 
tlemen call him. The first of the three reasons 
applies personally and exclusively to that half- 
breed ; the other two apply to all the hostile 
Indians, and justify the seizure and detention of 
others, who have been sent to the West. 

So much for justification ; now for the expe 
diency of having detained this Indian Powell. I 
hold it was expedient to exercise the right of 
detaining him, and prove this expediency by 
reasons both a priori and a posteriori. His 
previous treachery and crimes, and his well 
known disposition for further treachery and 
crimes, made it right for the officers of the Uni 
ted States to avail themselves of the first justi 
fiable occasion to put an end to his depredations 
by confining his person until the war was over. 
This is a reason a priori. The reason a pos 
teriori is, that it has turned out right ; it has 
operated well upon the mass of the Indians, be 
tween eighteen and nineteen hundred of which, 
negroes inclusive, have since surrendered to 
Gen. Jesup. This, sir, is a fact which contains 
an argument which overturns all that can be 
said on this floor against the detention of Osce 
ola. The Indians themselves do not view that 
act as perfidious or dishonorable, or the viola 
tion of a flag, or even the act of an enemy. They 
do not condemn General Jesup on account of it, 
but no doubt respect him the more for refusing 
to be made the dupe of a treacherous artifice. 
A bit of white linen, stripped, perhaps from the 
body of a murdered child, or its murdered mo 
ther, was no longer to cover the insidious visits 
of spies and enemies. A firm and manly course 
was taken, and the effect was good upon the 
minds of the Indians. The number since sur 
rendered is proof of its effect upon their minds ; 
and this proof should put to blush the lamenta 
tions which are here set up for Powell, and the 
censuEe thrown upon General Jesup. 

No, sir, no. General Jesup has been guilty 
of no perfidy, no fraud, no violation of flags. 
He has done nothing to stain his own charac 
ter, or to dishonor the flag of the United States. 
If he has erred, it has been on the side of hu 
manity, generosity, and forbearance to the In 
dians. If he has erred, as some suppose, in los 
ing time to parley with the Indians, that error 



has been on the side of humanity, and of confi 
dence in them. But has he erred ? Has his 
policy been erroneous ? Has the country been 
a loser by his policy ? To all these questions, 
let results give the answer. Let the twenty- 
two hundred Indians, abstracted from the hos 
tile ranks by his measures, be put in contrast 
with the two hundred, or less, killed and taken 
by his predecessors. Let these results be com 
pared ; and let this comparison answer the 
question whether, in point of fact, there has 
been any error, even a mistake of judgment, in 
his mode of conducting the war. 

The senator from South Carolina [Mr. PRES 
TON] complains of the length of time which 
General Jesup has consumed without bringing 
the war to a close. Here, again, the chapter 
of comparisons must be resorted to in order to 
obtain the answer which justice requires. How 
long, I pray you, was General Jesup in com 
mand ? from December, 1836, to May, 1838 ; 
nominally he was near a year and a half in 
command ; in reality not one year, for the sum 
mer months admit of no military operations in 
that peninsula. His predecessors commanded 
from December, 1835, to December, 1836; a 
term wanting but a few months of as long a pe 
riod as the command of General Jesup lasted. 
Sir, there is nothing in the length of time which 
this general commanded, to furnish matter for 
disadvantageous comparisons to him ; but the 
contrary. He reduced the hostiles about one- 
half in a year and a half; they reduced them 
about the one-twentieth in a year. The whole 
number was about 5,000 ; General Jesup di 
minished their number, during his command, 
2,200 ; the other generals had reduced them 
about 150. At the rate he proceeded, the work 
would be finished in about three years ; at the 
rate they proceeded, in about twenty years. 
Yet he is to be censured here for the length of 
time consumed without bringing the war to a 
close. He, and he alone, is selected for cen 
sure. Sir, I dislike these comparisons ; it is a 
disagreeable task for me to make them ; but I 
am driven to it, and mean no disparagement to 
others. The violence with which General J esup 
is assailed here the comparisons to which he 
has been subjected in order to degrade him 
leave me no alternative but to abandon a meri 
torious officer to unmerited censure, or to de 
fend him in the same manner in which he has 
been assailed. 



ANNO 1838. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



81 



The essential policy of General Jesup has 
been to induce the Indians to come in to sur 
render and to emigrate under the treaty. 
This has been his main, but not his exclusive, 
policy ; military operations have been combined 
with it ; many skirmishes and actions have 
been fought since he had command ; and it is 
remarkable that this general, who has been so 
much assailed on this floor, is the only com- 
mander-in-chief in Florida who has been wound 
ed in battle at the head of his command. His 
person marked with the scars of wounds re 
ceived in Canada during the late war with 
Great Britain, has also been struck by a bullet, 
in the face, in the peninsula of Florida j yet 
these wounds the services in the late war 
with Great Britain the removal of upwards 
of 16,000 Creek Indians from Alabama and 
Georgia to the "West, during the summer of 
1836 and more than twenty -five years of hon 
orable employment in the public service all 
these combined, and an unsullied private char 
acter into the bargain, have not been able to 
protect the feelings of this officer from lacera 
tion on this floor. Have not been sufficient to 
protect his feelings ! for, as to his character, 
that is untouched. The base accusation the 
vague denunciation the offensive epithets em 
ployed here, may lacerate feelings, but they do 
not reach character ; and as to the military in 
quiry, which the senator from South Carolina 
speaks of, I undertake to say that no such in 
quiry will ever take place. Congress, or either 
branch of Congress, can order an inquiry if it 
pleases ; but before it orders an inquiry, a 
probable cause has to be shown for it ; and 
that probable cause never has been, and never 
will be, shown in General Jesup's case. 

The senator from South Carolina speaks of 
the large force which was committed to Gene 
ral Jesup, and the little that was effected with 
that force. Is the senator aware of the extent 
of the country over which his operations ex 
tended ? that it extended from 31 to 25 degrees 
of north latitude ? that it began in the Okefe- 
nokee swamp in Georgia, and stretched to the 
Everglades in Florida ? that it was near five 
hundred miles in length in a straight line, and 
the whole sprinkled over with swamps, one of 
which alone was equal in length to the distance 
between Washington City and Philadelphia? 
But it was not extent of country alone, with its 
VOL. II. 6 



fastnesses, its climate, and its wily foe, that haa 
to be contended with ; a new element of oppo 
sition was encountered by General Jesup, in 
the poisonous information which was conveyed 
to the Indians' minds, which encouraged them 
to hold out, and of which he had not even 
knowledge for a long time. This was th6 
quantity of false information which was con 
veyed to the Indians, to stimulate and encour 
age their resistance. General Jesup took com 
mand just after the presidential election of 1836. 
The Indians were informed of this change of 
presidents, and were taught to believe that the 
white people had broke General Jackson that 
was the phrase had broke General Jackson 
for making war upon them. They were also 
informed that General Jesup was carrying on 
the war without the leave of Congress ; that 
Congress would give no more money to raise 
soldiers to fight them ; and that he dared not 
come home to Congress. Yes, he dared not 
come home to Congress ! These poor Indians 
seem to have been informed of intended move 
ments against the general in Congress, and to 
have relied upon them both to stop supplies 
and to punish the general. Moreover, they 
were told, that, if they surrendered to emigrate, 
they would receive the worst treatment on the 
way ; that, if a child cried, it would be thrown 
overboard ; if a chief gave offence, he would be 
put in irons. Who the immediate informants 
of all these fine stories were, cannot be exactly 
ascertained. They doubtless originated with 
that mass of fanatics, devoured by a morbid 
sensibility for negroes and Indians, which are 
now Don Quixoting over the land, and filling 
the public ear with so many sympathetic tales 
of their own fabrication. 

General Jesup has been censured for writing 
a letter disparaging to his predecessor in com 
mand. If he did so, and I do not deny it, 
though I have not seen the letter, nobly has he 
made the amends. Publicly and officially has 
he made amends for a private and unofficial 
wrong. In an official report to the war de 
partment, published by that department, he 
said : 

" As an act of justice to all my predecessors 
in command, I consider it my duty to say that 
the difficulties attending military operations in 
this country, can be properly appreciated only 
by those acquainted with them. I have advan- 



82 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



tages which neither of them possessed, in bet 
ter preparations and more abundant supplies ; 
and I found it impossible to operate with any 
prospect of success, until I had established a 
line of depots across the country. If I have at 
any time said aught in disparagement of the 
operations of others in Florida, either verbally 
or in writing, officially or unofficially, know 
ing the country as I now know it, I consider 
myself bound as a man of honor solemnly to 
retract it." 

Such are the amends which General Jesup 
makes frank and voluntary full and kindly 
worthy of a soldier towards brother soldiers ; 
and far more honorable to his predecessors in 
command than the disparaging comparisons 
which have been instituted here to do them 
honor at his expense. 

The expenses of this war is another head of 
attack pressed into this debate, and directed 
more against the administration than against 
the commanding general. It is said to have 
cost twenty millions of dollar^; but that is an 
error an error of near one-half. An actual 
return of all expenses up to February last, 
amounts to nine and a half millions ; the rest 
of the twenty millions go to the suppression 
of hostilities in other places, and with other In 
dians, principally in Georgia and Alabama, and 
with the Cherokees and Creeks. Sir, this 
charge of expense seems to be a standing head 
with the opposition at present. Every speech 
gives us a dish of it ; and the expenditures un 
der General Jackson and Mr. Van Buren are 
constantly put in contrast with those of pre 
vious administrations. Granted that these ex 
penditures are larger that they are greatly in 
creased ; yet what are they increased for ? 
Are they increased for the personal expenses of 
the officers of the government, or for great na 
tional objects ? The increase is for great ob 
jects ; such as the extinction of Indian titles in 
the States east of the Mississippi the removal 
of whole nations of Indians to the west of the 
Mississippi their subsistence for a year after 
they arrive there actual wars with some tribes 
the fear of it with others, and the consequent 
continual calls for militia and volunteers to 
preserve peace large expenditures for the per 
manent defences of the country, both by land 
and water, with a pension list for ever increas 
ing ; and other heads of expenditure which are 
for future national benefit and not for present 



individual enjoyment. Stripped of all these 
beads of expenditure, and the expenses of the 
present administration have nothing to fear 
from a comparison with other periods. Stated 
in the gross, as is usually done, and many igno 
rant people are deceived and imposed upon, 
and believe that there has been a great waste 
of public money ; pursued into the detail, and 
these expenditures will be found to have been 
made for great national objects objects which 
no man would have undone, to get back the 
money, even if it was possible to get back the 
money by undoing the objects. No one, for 
example, would be willing to bring back the 
Creeks, the Cherokees, the Choctaws, and 
Chickasaws into Alabama, Mississippi, Geor 
gia, Tennessee and North Carolina, even if the 
tens of millions which it has cost to remove 
them could be got back by that means ; and so 
of the other expenditures: yet these eternal 
croakers about expense are blaming the gov 
ernment for these expenditures. 

Sir, I have gone over the answers, which I 
proposed to make to the accusations of the sen 
ators from New Jersey and South Carolina. I 
have shown them to be totally mistaken in all 
their assumptions and imputations. I have 
shown that there was no fraud upon the In 
dians in the treaty at Fort Gibson that the 
identical chiefs who made that treaty have 
since been the hostile chiefs that the assassi 
nation and massacre of an agent, two govern 
ment expresses, an artillery officer, five citizens, 
and one hundred and twelve men of Major 
Dade's command, caused the war that our 
troops are not subject to censure for inefficien 
cy that General Jesup has been wrongfully 
denounced upon this floor and that even the 
expense of the Florida war, resting as it does in 
figures and in documents, has been vastly over 
stated to produce effect upon the public mind. 
All these things I have shown ; and I conclude 
with saying that cost, and time, and loss of 
men, are all out of the question ; that, for out 
rages so wanton and so horrible as those which 
occasioned this war, the national honor requires 
the most ample amends ; and the national safety 
requires a future guarantee in prosecuting this 
war to a successful close, and completely clear 
ing the peninsula of Florida of all the Indians 
that are upon it. 



ANNO 1838. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



CHAPTER XX. 

RESUMPTION OF SPECIE PAYMENTS BY THE 
NEW YORK BANKS. 

THE suspension commenced on the 10th of May 
in New York, and was followed throughout the 
country. In August the New York banks pro 
posed to all others to meet in convention, and 
agree upon a time to commence a general re 
sumption. That movement was frustrated by 
the opposition of the Philadelphia banks, for 
the reason, as given, that it was better to await 
the action of the extra session of Congress, 
then convoked, and to meet in September. 
The extra session adjourned early in October, 
and the New York banks, faithful to the prom 
ised resumption of specie payments, immediate 
ly issued another invitation for the general con 
vention of the banks in that city on the 27th 
of November ensuing, to carry into effect the 
object of the meeting which had been invited 
in the month of August. The 27th of Novem 
ber arrived j a large proportion of the delin 
quent banks had accepted the invitation to send 
delegates to the convention: but its meeting 
was again frustrated and from the same quar 
ter the Bank of the United States, and the in 
stitutions under its influence. They then re 
solved to send a committee to Philadelphia to 
ascertain from the banks when they would be 
ready, and to invite them to name a day when 
they would be able to resume j and if no day 
was definitely fixed, to inform them that the 
New York banks would commence specie pay 
ments without waiting for their co-operation. 
The Philadelphia banks would not co-operate. 
They would not agree to any definite time to 
take even initiatory steps towards resumption. 
This was a disappointment to the public mind 
that large part of it which still had faith hi 
the Bank of the United States ; and the con 
tradiction which it presented to all the previous 
professions of that institution, required explan 
ations, and, if possible, reconciliation with past 
declarations. The occasion called for the pen 
of Mr. Biddle, always ready, always confident, 
always presenting an easy remedy, and a sure 
one, for all the diseases to which banks, cur 
rency, and finance were heir. It called for 



another letter to Mr. John Quincy Adams, that 
is to say, to the public, through the distinction 
of that gentleman's name. It came the most 
elaborate and ingenious of its species ; its bur 
den, to prove the entire ability of the bank 
over which he presided to pay in full, and 
without reserve, but its intention not to do so 
on account of its duty to others not able to fol 
low its example, and which might be entirely 
ruined by a premature effort to do so. And 
he concluded with condensing his opinion into 
a sentence of characteristic and sententious 
brevity : ' ^n the whole, the course which in 
my judgment the banks ought to pursue, is 
simply this : The banks should remain exact 
ly as they are prepared to resume, but not 
yet resuming." But he did not stop there, but 
in another publication went the length of a 
direct threat of destruction against the New 
York banks if they should, in conformity to 
their promise, venture to resume^ saying : " Let 
the banks of the Empire State come up from 
their Elba, and enjoy their hundred days of re 
sumption ! a Waterloo awaits them, and a Saint 
Helena is prepared for them." 

The banks of New York were now thrown 
upon the necessity of acting without the con 
currence of those of Pennsylvania, and in fact 
under apprehension of opposition and counter 
action from that quarter. They were publicly 
pledged to act without her, and besides were 
under a legal obligation to do so. The legisla 
ture of the State, at the time of the suspension, 
only legalized it for one year. The indulgence 
would be out on the 15th of May, and for 
feiture of charter was the penalty to be incurred 
throughout the State for continuing it beyond 
that time. The city banks had the control of 
the movement, and they invited a convention 
of delegates from all the banks in the Union to 
meet in New York on the 15th of April. One 
hundred and forty-three delegates, from the 
principal banks in a majority of the States, at 
tended. Only delegates from fifteen States 
voted Pennsylvania, Maryland and South Car 
olina among the absent; which, as including the 
three principal commercial cities on the Atlan 
tic board south of New York, was a heavy de 
falcation from the weight of the convention. 
Of the fifteen States, thirteen voted for resuming 
on the 1st day of January, 1839 a delay of 
near nine months ; two voted against that day 



84 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



New York and Mississippi ; and (as it often 
happens in concurring votes) for reasons di 
rectly opposite to each other. The New York 
banks so voted because the day was too distant 
those of Mississippi because it was too near. 
The New York delegates wished the 15th of 
May, to avoid the penalty of the State law : 
those of Mississippi wished the 1st of January, 
1840, to allow them to get in two more cotton 
crops before the great pay-day came. The re 
sult of the voting showed the still great power 
of the Bank of the United States. The dele 
gates of the banks of ten States, including those 
with which she had most business, either re 
fused to attend the convention, or to vote after 
having attended. The rest chiefly voted the 
late day, " to favor the views of Philadelphia 
and Baltimore rather than those of New 
York." So said the delegates, "frankly avow 
ing" that their interests and sympathies were 
with the former two rather than with the lat 
ter." The banks of the State of New York 
were then left to act alone and did so. Sim 
ultaneously with the issue of the convention 
recommendation to resume on the first day of 
January, 1839, they issued another, recommend 
ing all the banks of the State of New York to 
resume on the 10th day of May, 1838 ; that is 
to say, within twenty-five days of that time. 
Those of the city declared their determination 
to begin on that day. or earlier, expressing their 
belief that they had nothing to fear but from 
the opposition and "deliberate animosity of 
others" meaning the Bank of the United 
States. The New York banks all resumed at 
the day named. Their example was immedi 
ately followed by others, even by the institu 
tions in those States whose delegates had votec 
for the long day; so that within sixty days 
thereafter the resumption was almost general 
leaving the Bank of the United States uncover 
ed, naked, and prominent at the head of all the 
delinquent banks in the Union. But her power 
was still great. Her stock stood at one hun 
dred and twelve dollars to the share, being a 
premium of twelve dollars on the hundred. In 
Congress, which was still in session, not a tittle 
was abated of her pretensions and her assurance 
her demands for a recharter for the repea 
of the specie circular and for the condemnation 
of the administration, as the author of the mis 
fortunes of the country ; of which evils ther 



were none except the bank suspensions, Ot 
hich she had been the secret prime contriver 
nd was now the detected promoter. Briefly 
efore the New York resumption, Mr. Webster 
he great advocate of the Bank of the United 
tates, and the truest exponent of her wishes, 
larangued the Senate in a set speech in her fa- 
or, of which some extracts will show the de 
ign and spirit : 

" And now, sir, we see the upshot of the ex- 
jeriment. We see around us bankrupt corpo- 
ations and broken promises ; but we see no 
>romises more really and emphatically broken 
han all those promises of the administration 
which gave us assurance of a better currency. 
?hese promises, r ow broken, notoriously and 
>penly broken, if they cannot be performed, 
iught, at least, to be acknowledged. The gov- 
Tnment ought not, in common fairness and 
:ommon honesty, to deny its own responsibili- 
y, seek to escape from the demands of the peo- 
>le, and to hide itself, out of the way and be 
yond the reach of the process of public opinion, 
>y retreating into this sub-treasury system. 
-*et it, at least, come forth ; let it bear a port of 
lonesty and candor ; let it confess its promises, 
fit cannot perform them ; and, above all, now, 
jven now, at this late hour, let it renounce 
schemes and projects, the inventions of pre- 
umption, and the resorts of desperation, and 
,et it address itself, in all good faith, to the great 
work of restoring the currency by approved and 
constitutional means. 

" What say these millions of souls to the sub- 
treasury 1 In the first place, what says the city 
of New York, that great commercial emporium, 
worthy the gentleman's [Mr. WRIGHT] commen 
dation in 1834, and worthy of his commendation 
and my commendation, and all commendation, 
at all times ? What sentiments, what opinions, 
what feelings, are proclaimed by the thousands 
of merchants, traders, manufacturers, and l.i- 
borers ? What is the united shout of all the 
voices of all her classes ? What is it but that 
you will put down this new-fangled sub-treasu 
ry system, alike alien to their interests and 
their feelings, at once, and for ever ? What is 
it, but that in mercy to the mercantile interest, 
the trading interest, the shipping interest, the 
manufacturing interest, the laboring class, and 
all classes, you will give up useless and perni 
cious political schemes and projects, and return 
to the plain, straight course of wise and whole 
some legislation '? The sentiments of the cily 
cannot be misunderstood. A thousand pens 
and ten thousand tongues, and a spirited press, 
make them all known. If we have not already 
heard enough, we shall hear more. Embar 
rassed, vexed, pressed and distressed, as are her 
citizens at this moment, yet their resolution in 
not shaken, their spirit is not broken ; and, de 
pend upon it, they will not see their commerce, 



ANNO 1838. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



their business, their prosperity and their hap 
piness, all sacrificed to preposterous schemes 
and political empiricism, without another, and 
a yet more vigorous struggle. 

" Sir, I think there is a revolution in public 
opinion now going on, whatever may be the 
opinion of the member from New York, or 
others. I think the fall elections prove this, 
and that other more recent events confirm it. 
I think it is a revolt against the absolute dicta 
tion of party, a revolt against coercion on the 
public judgment ; and, especially, against the 
adoption of new mischievous expedients on 
questions of deep public interest ; a revolt 
against the rash and unbridled spirit of change ; 
a revolution, in short, against further revolu 
tion. I hope, most sincerely, that this revolu 
tion may go on ; not, sir, for the sake of men, 
but for the sake of measures, and for the sake 
of the country. I wish it to proceed, till the 
whole country, with an imperative unity of 
voice, shall call back Congress to the true policy 
of the government, 

" I verily believe a majority of the people of 
the United States are now of the opinion that 
a national bank, properly constituted, limited, 
and guarded, is both constitutional and expe 
dient, and ought now to be established. So far 
as I can learn, three-fourths of the western peo 
ple are for it. Their representatives here can 
form a better judgment ; but such is my opinion 
upon the best information which I can obtain. 
The South may be more divided, or may be 
against a national institution ; but, looking 
again to the centre, the North and the East, 
and comprehending the whole in one view, I 
believe the prevalent sentiment is euch as I 
have stated. 

" At the last session great pains were taken 
to obtain a vote of this and the other House 
against a bank, for the obvious purpose of pla 
cing such an institution out of the list of reme 
dies, and so reconciling the people to the sub- 
treasury scheme. Well, sir, and did those votes 
produce any effect ? None at all. The people 
did not, and do not, care a rush for them. I 
never have seen, or heard, a single man, who 
paid the slightest respect to those votes of ours. 
The honorable member, to-day, opposed as he is 
to a bank, has not even alluded to them. So 
entirely vain is it, sir, in this country, to at 
tempt to forestall, commit, or coerce the public 
judgment. All those resolutions fell perfectly 
dead on the tables of the two Houses. We 
may resolve what we please, and resolve it 
when we please ; but if the people do not like 
it, at their own good pleasure they will rescind 
't; and they are not likely to continue their 
approbation long to any system of measures, 
however plausible, which terminates in deep 
disappointment of all their hopes, for their own 
prosperity." 

All the friends of the Bank of the United 
States came to her assistance in this last trial. 



The two halls of Congress resounded with her 
eulogium, and with condemnation of the mea 
sures of the administration. It was a last effort 
to save her, and to force her upon the federal 
government. Multitudes of speakers on one 
side brought out numbers on the other among 
those on the side of the sub-treasury and hard 
money, and against the whole paper system, of 
which he considered a national bank the cite- 
del, was the writer of this View, who under 
took to collect into a speech, from history and 
experience, the facts and reasons which would 
bear upon the contest, and act upon the judg 
ment of candid men, and show the country to 
be independent of banks, if it would only will 
it. Some extracts from that speech make the 
next chapter. 



CHAPTER XXI. 

RESUMPTION OF SPECIE PAYMENTS: HISTORI 
CAL NOTICES: MR. BENTON'S SPEECH: EX 
TRACTS. 

THERE are two of those periods, each marking 
the termination of a national bank charter, and 
each presenting us with the actual results of the 
operations of those institutions upon the gene 
ral currency, and each replete with lessons of 
instruction applicable to the present day, and 
to the present state of things. The first of 
these periods is the year 1811, when the first 
national bank had run its career of twenty 
years, and was permitted by Congress to expire 
upon its own limitation. I take for my guide 
the estimate of Mr. Lloyd, then a senator in 
Congress from the State of Massachusetts, 
whose dignity of character and amenity of man 
ners is so pleasingly remembered by those who 
served with him here, and whose intelligence 
and accuracy entitle his statements to the high 
est degree of credit. That eminent senator es 
timated the total currency of the country, at 
the expiration of the charter of the first na 
tional bank, at sixty millions of dollars, to wit : 
ten millions of specie, and fifty millions in bank 
notes. Now compare the two quantities, and 
mark the results. Our population has precisely 
doubled itself since 1811. The increase of oui 
currency should, therefore, upon the same prin 
ciple of increase, be the double of what it then 



86 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



was ; yet it is three times as great as it then 
was ! The next period which challenges our 
attention is the veto session of 1832, when the 
second Bank of the United States, according to 
the opinion of its eulogists, had carried the cur 
rency to the ultimate point of perfection. 
What was the amount then? According to 
the estimate of a senator from Massachusetts, 
then and now a member of this body [Mr. 
WEBSTER], then a member of the Finance Com 
mittee, and with every access to the best infor 
mation, the whole amount of currency was then 
estimated at about one hundred millions; to 
wit : twenty millions in specie, and seventy-five 
to eighty millions in bank notes. The increase 
of our population since that time is estimated 
at twenty per cent. ; so that the increase of our 
currency, upon the basis of increased popula 
tion, should also be twenty per cent. This 
would give an increase of twenty millions of 
dollars, making, in the whole, one hundred and 
twenty millions. Thus, our currency in actual 
existence, is nearly one-third more than either 
the ratio of 1811 or of 1832 would give. Thus, 
\ve have actually about fifty millions more, in 
this season of ruin and destitution, than we 
should have, if supplied only in the ratio of 
what we possessed at the two periods of what 
is celebrated as the best condition of the cur 
rency, and most prosperous condition of the 
country. So much for quantity ; now for the 
solidity of the currency at these respective pe 
riods. How stands the question of solidity ? 
Sir, it stands thus : in 1811, five paper dollars 
to one of silver ; in 1822, four to one ; in 1838, 
one to one, as near as can be ! Thus, the com 
parative solidity of the currency is infinitely 
preferable to what it ever was before ; for the 
increase, under the sagacious policy of General 
Jackson 3 has taken place precisely where it was 
needed at the bottom, and not at the top ; at 
the foundation, and not in the roof; at the base, 
and not at the apex. Our paper currency has 
increased but little ; we may say nothing, upon 
the bases of 1811 and 1832 ; our specie has in 
creased immeasurably ; no less than eight-fold, 
since 1811, and four-fold since 1832. The 
whole increase is specie ; and of that we have 
seventy millions more than in 1811, and sixty 
millions more than in 1832. Such are the 
fruits of General Jackson's policy ! a policy 
which we only have to persevere in for a few 
years, to have our country as amply supplied 



with gold and silver as France and Holland are } 
that France and Holland in which gold is bor 
rowed at three per cent, per annum, while we 
often borrow paper money at three per cent, a 
month. 

But there is no specie. Not a ninepence to 
be got for a servant ; not a picayune for a beg 
gar; not a ten cent piece for the post-office. 
Such is the assertion ; but how far is it true ? 
Go to the banks, and present their notes at 
their counter, and it is all too true. No gold, 
no silver, no copper to be had there in redemp 
tion of their solemn promises to pay. Meta 
phorically, if not literally speaking, a demand 
for specie at the counter of a bank might bring 
to the unfortunate applicant more kicks than 
coppers. But change the direction of the de 
mand ; go to the brokers ; present the bank 
note there ; no sooner said than done ; gold 
and silver spring forth in any quantity; the 
notes are cashed; you are thanked for your 
custom, invited to return again ; and thus, the 
counter of the broker, and not the counter of 
the bank, becomes the place for the redemption 
of the notes of the bank. The only part of the 
transaction that remains to be told, is the per 
centum which is shaved off! And, whoever 
will submit to that shaving, can have all the 
bank notes cashed which he can carry to them. 
Yes, Mr. President, the brokers, and not the 
bankers, now redeem the bank notes. There is 
no dearth of specie for that purpose. They 
have enough to cash all the notes of the banks, 
and all the treasury notes of the government 
into the bargain. Look at their placards I not 
a village, not a city, not a town in the Union, 
in which the sign-boards do not salute the eye 
of the passenger, inviting him to come in and 
exchange his bank notes, and treasury notes, 
for gold and silver. And why cannot the banks 
redeem, as well as the brokers ? Why can 
they not redeem their own notes ? Because a 
veto has issued from the city of Philadelphia, 
and because a political revolution is to be effect 
ed by injuring the country, and then charging 
the injury upon the folly and wickedness of the 
republican administrations. This is the reason, 
and the sole reason. The Bank of the United 
States, its affiliated institutions, and its politi 
cal confederates, are the sole obstacles to the 
resumption of specie payments. They alone 
prevent the resumption. It is they who arc 
now in terror lest the resumption shall begin 



ANNO 1838. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



87 



and to prevent it, we hear the real shout, and 
feel the real application of the rallying cry, so 
pathetically uttered on this floor by the sena 
tor from Massachusetts [Mr. WEBSTER] once 
more to the breach, dear friends , once more ! 

Yes, Mr. President, the cause of the non-re- 
enmption of specie payments is now plain and 
undeniable. It is as plain as the sun at high 
noon, in a clear sky. No two opinions can dif 
fer about it, how much tongues may differ. 
The cause of not resuming is known, and the 
cause of suspension will soon be known like- 
'wise. Gentlemen of the opposition charge the 
suspension upon the folly, the wickedness, the 
insanity, the misrule, and misgovernment of 
the outlandish administration, as they classi 
cally call it ; expressions which apply to the 
people who created the administration which 
have been so much vilified, and who have sanc 
tioned their policy by repeated elections. The 
opposition charge the suspension to them to 
their policy to their acts to the veto of 1832 
the removal of the deposits of 1833 the 
Treasury order of 1836 and the demand for 
specie for the federal Treasury. This is the 
charge of the politicians, and of all who follow 
the lead, and obey the impulsion of the dena 
tionalized Bank of the United States. But 
what say others whose voice should be poten 
tial, and even omnipotent, on this question? 
What say the New York city banks, where the 
suspension began, and whose example was al 
leged for the sole cause of suspension by all the 
rest? What say these banks, whose position 
is at the fountain-head of knowledge, and whose 
answer for themselves is an answer for all. 
What say they ? Listen, and you shall hear ! 
for I hold in my hand a report of a committee 
of these banks, made under an official injunc 
tion, by their highest officers, and deliberately 
approved by all the city institutions. It is 
signed by Messrs. Albert Gallatin, George New- 
bold, C. C. Lawrence, C. Heyer, J. J. Palmer, 
Preserved Fish, and G. A. Worth, seven gen 
tlemen of known and established character; and 
not more than one out of the seven politically 
friendly to the late and present administrations 
of the federal government. This is their re 
port : 

" The immediate causes which thus compelled 
the banks of the city of New York to suspend 
specie payments on the 10th of May last, are 



well known. The simultaneous withdrawing 
of the large public deposits, and of excessive 
foreign credits, combined with the great and 
unexpected fall in the price of the principal ar 
ticle of our exports, with an import of corn and 
bread stuffs, such as had never before occurred, 
and with the consequent inability of the coun 
try, particularly in the south-western States, to 
make the usual and expected remittances, did, 
at one and the same time, fall principally ana 
necessarily, on the greatest commercial empo 
rium of the Union. After a long and most ar 
duous struggle, during which the banks, though 
not altogether unsuccessfully, resisting the im 
perative foreign demand for the precious metals, 
were gradually deprived of a great portion of 
their specie; some unfortunate incidents of a 
local nature, operating in concert with other 
previous exciting causes, produced distrust and 
panic, and finally one of those general runs, 
which, if continued, no banks that issue paper 
money, payable on demand, can ever resist ; and 
which soon put it out of the power of those of 
this city to sustain specie payments. The ex 
ample was followed by the banks throughout 
the whole country, with as much rapidity as 
the news of the suspension in New York reach 
ed them, without waiting for an actual run ; 
and principally, if not exclusively, on the al 
leged grounds of the effects to be apprehended 
from that suspension. Thus, whilst the New 
York city banks were almost drained of their 
specie, those in other places preserved the 
amount which they held before the final catas 
trophe." 

These are the reasons ! and what becomes 
now of the Philadelphia cry, re-echoed by poli 
ticians and subaltern banks, against the ruinous 
measures of the administration ? Not a mea 
sure of the administration mentioned ! not one 
alluded to ! Not a word about the Treasury 
order ; not a word about the veto of the Na 
tional Bank charter ; not a word about the re 
moval of the deposits from the Bank of the 
United States ; not a word about' the specie 
policy of the administration ! Not one word 
about any act of the government, except that 
distribution act, disguised as a deposit law, 
which was a measure of Congress, and not of 
the administration, and the work of the oppo 
nents, and not the friends of the administration, 
and which encountered its only opposition in 
the ranks of those friends. I opposed it, with 
some half dozen others; and among my grounds 
of opposition, one was, that it would endanger 
the deposit banks, especially the Now York 
city deposit banks, that it would reduce then* 
to the alternative of choosing between breaking 



88 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



their customers, and being broken themselves. 
This was the origin of that act the work of 
the opposition on this floor ; and now we find 
that very act to be the cause which is put at 
the head of all the causes which led to the sus 
pension of specie payments. Thus, the admin 
istration is absolved. Truth has performed its 
office. A false accusation is rebuked and 
silenced. Censure falls where it is due; and 
the authors of the mischief stand exposed in the 
double malefaction of having done the mischief, 
and then charged it upon the heads of the inno 
cent. 

But, gentlemen of the opposition say, there 
can be no resumption until Congress " acts 
upon the currency?' Until Congress acts upon 
the currency ! that is the phrase ! and it comes 
from Philadelphia ; and the translation of it is, 
that there shall be no resumption until Con 
gress submits to Mr. Biddle's bank, and re- 
charters that institution. This is the language 
from Philadelphia, and the meaning of the lan 
guage ; but, happily, a different voice issues 
from the city of New York! The authentic 
notification is issued from the banks of that 
city, pledging themselves to resume by the 10th 
day of May. They declare their ability to re 
sume, and to continue specie payments ; and 
declare they have nothing to fear, except from 
" deliberate hostility " an hostility for which 
they allege there can be no motive but of 
which they delicately intimate there is danger. 
Philadelphia is distinctly unveiled as the seat 
of this danger. The resuming banks fear hos 
tility deliberate acts of hostility from that 
quarter. They fear nothing from the hostility, 
or folly, or wickedness of this administration. 
They fear nothing from the Sub-Treasury bill. 
They fear Mr. Biddle's bank, and nothing else 
but his bank, with its confederates and subal 
terns. They mean to resume, and Mr. Biddle 
means that they shall not. Henceforth two 
flags will be seen, hoisted from two great cities. 
The New York flag will have the word resump 
tion inscribed upon it; the Philadelphia flag 
will bear the inscription of non-resumption, and 
destruction to all resuming banks. 

I have carefully observed the conduct of the 
leading banks in the United States. The New 
York banks, and the principal deposit banks, 
had a cause for stopping which no others can 
plead, or did plead, I announced that cause, 



not once, but many times, on this floor ; not 
only during the passage of the distribution law, 
but during the discussion of those famous land 
bills, which passed this chamber ; and one of 
which ordered a peremptory distribution of 
sixty-four millions, by not only taking what 
was in the Treasury, but by reaching back, and 
taking all the proceeds of the land sales for 
years preceding. I then declared in my place, 
and that repeatedly, that the banks, having 
lent this money under our instigation, if called 
upon to reimburse it in this manner, must be 
reduced to ;he alternative of breaking their 
customers, or c* being broken themselves. 
When the New York banks stopped, I made 
great allowances for them , but I could not jus 
tify others for the rapidity with which they 
followed their example ; and still less can I jus 
tify them for their tardiness in following the 
example of the same banks in resuming. Now 
that the New York banks have come forward 
to redeem their obligations, and have shown 
that sensibility to their own honor, and that 
regard for the punctual performance of their 
promises, which once formed the pride and 
glory of the merchant's and the banker's char 
acter, I feel the deepest anxiety for their suc 
cess in the great contest which is to ensue. 
Their enemy is a cunning and a powerful one, 
and as wicked and unscrupulous as it is cunning 
and strong. Twelve y ears ago, the president of 
that bank which now forbids other banks to re 
sume, declared in an official communication to 
the Finance Committee of this body, " that 
there -were but few State banks which the Bank 
of the United Stales could not DESTROY 
by an exertion of its POWERS Since that 
time it has become more powerful ; and, besides 
its political strength, and its allied institutions, 
and its exhaustless mine of resurrection notes, 
it is computed by its friends to wield a power 
of one hundred and fifty millions of dollars ! all 
at the beck and nod of one single man ! for his 
automaton directors are not even thought of! 
The wielding of this immense power, and its 
fatal direction to the destruction of the resum 
ing banks, presents the prospect of a fearful 
conflict ahead. Many of the local banks will 
doubtless perish in it; many individuals will 
be ruined ; much mischief will be done to the 
commerce and to the business of different 
places ; and all the destruction that is accom- 



ANNO 1838. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



89 



j. tshed will be charged upon some act of the 
administration no matter what for whatever 
is given out from the Philadelphia head is incon 
tinently lepeated by all the obsequious follow 
ers, until the signal is given to open upon some 
new cry. 

Sir, the honest commercial banks have re 
sumed, or mean to resume. They have re 
sumed, not upon the fictitious and delusive 
credit of legislative enactments, but upon the 
solid basis of gold and silver. The hundred 
millions of specie which we have accumulated 
in the country has done the business. To that 
hundred millions the country is indebted for 
this early, easy, proud and glorious resumption ! 
and here let us do justice to the men of this 
day to the policy of General Jackson and to 
the success of the experiments to which we 
are indebted for these one hundred millions. 
Let us contrast the events and effects of the 
stoppages in 1814, and in 1819, with the events 
and effects of the stoppage in 1837. and let us 
see the difference between them, and the 
causes of that difference. The stoppage of 1814 
compelled the government to use depreciated 
bank notes during the remainder of the war, 
and up to the year 1817. Treasury notes, even 
bearing a large interest, were depreciated ten, 
twenty, thirty per cent. Bank notes were at 
an equal depreciation. The losses to the gov 
ernment from depreciated paper in loans alone, 
during the war, were computed by a committee 
of the House of Representatives at eighty mil 
lions of dollars. Individuals suffered in the 
same proportion ; and every transaction of life 
bore the impress of the general calamity. 
Specie was not to be had. There was, nation 
ally speaking, none in the country. The specie 
standard was gone ; the measure of values was 
lost ; a fluctuating paper money, ruinously de 
preciated, was the medium of all exchanges. To 
extricate itself from this deplorable condition, 
the expedient of a National Bank was resorted 
to that measure of so much humiliation, and of 
so much misfortune to the republican party. 
For the moment it seemed to give relief, and to 
restore national prosperity; but treacherous 
and delusive was the seeming boon. The banks 
resumed relapsed and every evil of the pre 
vious suspension returned upon the country 
with increased and aggravated force. 

Politicians alone have taken up this matter 



and have proposed, for the first time since the 
foundation of the government for the first 
time in 48 years to compel the government tc 
receive paper money for its dues. The pretext 
is, to aid the banks in resuming ! This, indeed, 
is a marvellous pretty conception ! Aid the 
banks to resume ! Why, sir, we cannot pre 
vent them from resuming. Every solvent, 
commercial bank in the United States either 
has resumed, or has declared its determination 
to do so in the course of the year. The insol 
vent, and the political banks, which did not 
mean to resume, will have to follow the New 
York example, or die ! Mr. Biddle's bank must 
follow the New York lead, or die ! The good 
banks are with the country : the rest we defy. 
The political banks may resume or not, as they 
please, or as they dare. If they do not, they 
die ! Public opinion, and the laws of the land, 
will exterminate them. If the president of the 
miscalled Bank of the United States has made 
a mistake in recommending indefinite non- 
resumption, and in proposing to establish a con 
federation of broken banks, and has found out 
his mistake, and wants a pretext for retreating, 
let him invent one. There is no difficulty in 
the case. Any thing that the government 
does, or does not any thing that has happened, 
will happen, or can happen will answer the 
purpose. Let the president of the Bank of the 
United States give out a tune : incontinently it 
will be sung by every bank man in the United 
States ; and no matter how ridiculous the ditty 
may be, it will be celebrated as superhuman 
music. 

But an enemy lies in wait for them ! one 
that foretells their destruction, is able to de 
stroy them, and which looks for its own suc 
cess in their ruin. The report of the commit 
tee of the New York banks expressly refers to 
" acts of deliberate hostility " from a neigh 
boring institution as a danger which the resum 
ing banks might have to dread. The reference 
was plain to the miscalled Bank of the United 
States as the source of this danger. Since that 
time an insolent and daring threat has issued 
from Philadelphia, bearing the marks of its 
bank paternity, openly threatening the resum 
ing banks of New York with destruction. This 
is the threat : " Let the banks of the Empire 
State come up from their Elba, and enjoy 
their hundred days of resumption ; a Water 



90 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



loo awaits them, and a St. Helena is prepared 
for them." Here is a direct menace, and com 
ing from a source which is able to make good 
what it threatens. Without hostile attacks, 
the resuming banks have a perilous process to 
go through. The business of resumption is al 
ways critical. It is a case of impaired credit, 
and a slight circumstance may excite a panic 
which may be fatal to the whole. The public 
having seen them stop payment, can readily be 
lieve in the mortality of their nature, and that 
another stoppage is as easy as the former. On 
the slightest alarm on the stoppage of a few 
inconsiderable banks, or on the noise of a 
groundless rumor a general panic may break 

out. Sauve qui pent save himself who can 

becomes the cry with the public; and al 
most every bank may be run down. So it was 
in England after the long suspension there from 
1797 to 1823 ; so it was in the United States 
after the suspension from 1814 to 1817; in each 
country a second stoppage ensued in two years 
after resumption; and these second stoppages 
are like relapses to an individual after a spell 
of sickness : the relapse is more easily brought 
on than the original disease, and is far more 
dangerous. 

The banks in England suspended in 1797 
they broke in 1825 ; in the United States it 
was a suspension during the war, and a break 
ing- in 1819-20. So it may be again with us. 
There is imminent danger to the resuming 
banks, without the pressure of premeditated 
hostility ; but, with that hostility, their pros 
tration is almost certain. The Bank of the 
United States can crush hundreds on any day 
that it pleases. It can send out its agents into 
every State of the Union, with sealed orders to 
be opened on a given day, like captains sent in 
to different seas ; and can break hundreds of 
local banks within the same hour, and over an 
extent of thousands of miles. It can do this 
with perfect ease the more easily with resur 
rection notes and thus excite a universal panic, 
crush the resuming banks, and then charge the 
whole upon the government. This is what it 
can do; this is what it has threatened; and 
stupid is the bank, and doomed to destruction, 
that does not look out for the danger, and forti 
fy against it. In addition to all these dangers, 
the senator from Kentucky, the author of the 
resolution himself, tells you that these banks 



must fail again ! he tells you they will fail ! and 
in the very same moment he presses the com 
pulsory reception of all the notes on all thesa 
banks upon the federal treasury ! What is this 
but a proposition to ruin the finances to bank 
rupt the Treasury to disgrace the adminis 
tration to demonstrate the incapacity of the 
State banks to serve as the fiscal agents of the 
government, and to gain a new argument for 
the creation of a national bank, and the ele 
vation of the bank party to power ? This is 
the clear inference from the proposition; and 
viewing it in this light, I feel it to be my duty 
to expose, and to repel it, as a proposition to 
inflict mischief and disgrace upon the country. 

But to return to the point, the contrast be 
tween the effects and events of former bank 
stoppages, and the effects and events of the 
present one. The effects of the former were to 
sink the price of labor and of property to the 
lowest point, to fill the States with stop laws, 
relief laws, property laws, and tender laws ; to 
ruin nearly all debtors, and to make property 
change hands at fatal rates ; to compel the fed 
eral government to witness the heavy deprecia 
tion of its treasury notes, to receive its reve 
nues in depreciated paper ; and, finally, to sub 
mit to the establishment of a national bank as 
the means of getting it out of its deplorable 
condition that bank, the establishment of 
which was followed by the seven years of the 
greatest calamity which ever afflicted the coun 
try ; and from which calamity we then had to 
seek relief from the tariff, and not from more 
banks. How different the events of the present 
time ! The banks stopped in May, 1837 ; they 
resume in May, 1838. Their paper depreciated 
but little ; property, except in a few places, was 
but slightly affected ; the price of produce con 
tinued good ; people paid their debts without 
sacrifices ; treasury notes, in defiance of politi 
cal and moneyed combinations to depress them, 
kept at or near par ; in many places above it ; 
the government was never brought to receive 
its revenues in depreciated paper ; and finally 
all good banks are resuming in the brief space 
of a year ; and no national bank has been cre 
ated. Such is the contrast between the two 
periods ; and now, sir, what is all this owing 
to ? what is the cause of this great difference in 
two similar periods of bank stoppages ? It is 
owing to our gold bill of 1834, by which we 



ANNO 1838. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



91 



corrected the erroneous standard of gold, and 
which is now giving us an avalanche of that 
metal ; it is owing to our silver bill of the same 
year, by which we repealed the disastrous act 
of 1819, against the circulation of foreign silver, 
and which is now spreading the Mexican dol 
lars all over the country ; it i's owing to our 
movements against small notes under twenty 
dollars ; to our branch mints, and the increased 
activity of the mother mint ; to our determina 
tion to revive the currency of the constitution, 
and to our determination not to fall back upon 
the local paper currencies of the States for a 
national currency. It was owing to these 
measures that we have passed through this 
bank stoppage in a style so different from 
what has been done heretofore. It is owing to 
our "experiments" on the currency to our 
" humbug " of a gold and silver currency to 
our "tampering" with the monetary system 
it is owing to these that we have had this 
signal success in this last stoppage, and are now 
victorious over all the prophets of woe, and over 
all the architects of mischief. These experi 
ments, this humbugging, and this tampering, 
has increased our specie in six years from twen 
ty millions to one hundred millions ; and it is 
these one hundred millions of gold and silver 
which have sustained the country and the gov 
ernment under the shock of the stoppage has 
enabled the honest solvent banks to resume, 
and will leave the insolvent and political banks 
without excuse or justification for not resum 
ing. Our experiments I love the word, and 
am sorry that gentlemen of the opposition have 
ceased to repeat it have brought an avalanche 
of gold and silver into the country ; it is satu- 
.rating us with the precious metals, it has re 
lieved and sustained the country; and now 
when these experiments have been successful 
have triumphed over all opposition gentlemen 
cease their ridicule, and go to work with their 
paper-money resolutions to force the govern 
ment to use paper, and thereby to drive off the 
gold and silver which our policy has brought 
into the country, destroy the specie basis of the 
banks, give us an exclusive paper currency 
again, and produce a new expansion and a new 
explosion. 

Justice to the men of this day requires these 
things to be stated. They have avoided the 
trrors of 1811. They have avoided the pit into 



which they saw their predecessors fall. Those 
who prevented the renewal of the bank chartei 
in 1811, did nothing else but prevent its re 
newal ; they provided no substitute for the 
notes of the bank ; did nothing to restore the 
currency of the constitution ; nothing to revive 
the gold currency ; nothing to increase the spe 
cie of the country. They fell back upon the 
exclusive use of local bank notes, without even 
doing any thing to strengthen the local banks, 
by discarding their paper under twenty dollars. 
They fell back upon the local banks ; and the 
consequence was, the total prostration, the ut 
ter helplessness, the deplorable inability of the 
government to take care of itself, or to relieve 
and restore the country, when the banks failed. 
Those who prevented the recharter of the 
second Bank of the United States had seen all 
this ; and they determined to avoid such error 
and calamity. They set out to revive the na 
tional gold currency, to increase the silver cur 
rency, and to reform and strengthen the bank 
ing system. They set out to do these things j 
and they have done them. Against a powerful 
combined political and moneyed confederation, 
they have succeeded ; and the one hundred mil 
lions of gold and silver now in the country at 
tests the greatness of their victory, and insures 
the prosperity of the country against the ma 
chinations of the wicked and the factious. 



CHAPTER XXII. 

ME. CLAY'S EESOLUTION IN FAVOK OP EESUM- 
ING BANKS, AND ME. BENTON'S EEMAEKS UPON 
IT. 

AFTER the New York banks had resolved to 
recommence specie payments, and before the 
day arrived for doing so, Mr. Clay submitted a 
resolution in the Senate to promote resumption 
by making the notes of the resuming banks re 
ceivable in payment of all dues to the federal 
government. It was clearly a movement in be 
half of the delinquent banks, as those of New 
York, and others, had resolved to return to 
specie payments without requiring any such 
condition. Nevertheless he placed the banks 
of the State of New York in the front rank for 
the benefits to be received under his proposed 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



measure. They had undertaken to recommence 
payments, he said, not from any ability to do 
so, but from compulsion under a law of the 
State. The receivability of their notes in pay 
ment of all federal dues would give them a 
credit and circulation which would prevent 
their too rapid return for redemption. So of 
others. It would be a help to all in getting 
through the critical process of resumption ; and 
in helping them would benefit the business and 
prosperity of the country. He thought it wise 
to give that assistance ; but reiterated his opin 
ion that, nothing but the establishment of a 
national bank would effectually remedy the 
evils of a disordered currency, and permanently 
cure the wounds under which the country was 
now suffering. Mr. Benton replied to Mr. 
Clay, and said : 

This resolution of the senator from Kentucky 
[Mr. CLAY], is to aid the banks to resume to 
aid, encourage, and enable them to resume. 
This is its object, as declared by its mover; 
and it is offered here after the leading banks 
have resumed, and when no power can even 
prevent the remaining solvent banks from re 
suming. Doubtless, immortal glory will be 
acquired by this resolution ! It can be heralded 
to all corners of the country, and celebrated in 
all manner of speeches and editorials, as the 
miraculous cause of an event which had already 
occurred ! Yes, sir already occurred ! for the 
solvent banks have resumed, are resuming, and 
will resume. Every solvent bank in the United 
States will have resumed in a few months, and 
no efforts of the insolvents and their political 
confederates can prevent it. In New York the 
resumption is general ; in Massachusetts, Rhode 
Island, Maine, and New Jersey, it is partial; 
and every where the solvent banks are prepar 
ing to redeem the pledge which they gave when 
they stopped thai of resuming- whenever New 
York did. The insolvent and political banks 
will not resume at all, or, except for a few 
tveeks, to fail again, make a panic and a new run 
apon the resuming banks stop them, if possi 
ble, then charge it upon the administration, and 
recommence their lugubrious cry for a National 
Bank. 

The resumption will take place. The masses 
of gold and silver pouring into the country 
under the beneficent effects of General Jackson's 
hard-money policy, will enable every solvent 



Dank to resume ; a moral sense, and a fear of 
consequences, will compel them to do it. Tht 
importations of specie are now enormous, and 
equalling every demand, if it was not sup 
pressed. There can be no doubt but that the 
quantity of specie in the country is equal to the 
amount of bank notes in circulation that they 
are dollar for dollar that the country is better 
off for money at this day than it ever was be 
fore, though shamefully deprived of "the use of 
gold and silver by the political and insolvent 
part of the banks and their confederate poli 
ticians. 

The solvent banks will resume, and Congress 
cannot prevent them if it tried. They have 
received the aid which they need in the 
$100,000,000 of gold and silver which now re 
lieves the country, and distresses the politicians 
who predicted no relief, until a national bank 
was created. Of the nine hundred banks in the 
country, there are many which never can re 
sume, and which should not attempt it, except 
to wind up their affairs. Many of these are 
rotten to the core, and will fall to pieces the 
instant they are put to the specie test. Some 
of them even fail now for rags ; several have so 
failed in Massachusetts and Ohio, to say nothing 
of those called wild cats the progeny of a gen 
eral banking law in Michigan. We want a re 
sumption to discriminate between banks, and 
to save the community from impositions. 

We wanted specie, and we have got it. Five 
years ago at the veto session of 1832 there 
were but twenty millions in the country. So 
said the senator from Massachusetts who has 
just resumed his seat [Mr. WEBSTER]. We 
have now, or will have in a few weeks, one 
hundred millions. This is the salvation of the 
country. It compels resumption, and has de 
feated all the attempts to scourge the country 
into a submission to a national bank. While 
that one hundred millions remains, the country 
can place at defiance the machinations of the 
Bank of the United States, and its confederate 
politicians, to perpetuate the suspension, and to 
continue the reign of rags and shin-plasters. 
Their first object is to get rid of these hundred 
millions, and all schemes yet tried have failed 
to counteract the Jacksonian policy. Ridicule 
was tried first ; deportation of specie was tried 
next ; a forced suspension has been continued 
for a year ; the State governments and the peo* 



ANNO 1838. MARTIN VAN BQREN, PRESIDENT. 



pie were vanquished , still the specie came in, 
because the federal government created a de 
mand for it. This firm demand has frustrated 
all the schemes to drive off specie, and to deliver 
up the country to the dominion of the paper- 
money party. This demand has been the 
stumbling block of that party ; and M-his resolu 
tion now comes to remove that stumbling 
block. It is the most revolting proposition ever 
made in this Congress ! It is a flagrant viola 
tion of the constitution, by making paper money 
a tender both to and from the government. It 
is fraught with ruin and destruction to the pub 
lic property, the public Treasury, and the pub 
lic creditors. The notes of nine hundred banks 
are to be received into the Treasury, and dis 
bursed from the Treasury. They are to be 
paid out as well as paid in. The ridiculous 
proviso of willingness to receive them on the 
part of the public creditor is an insult to him ; 
for there is no choice it is that or nothing. 
The disbursing officer does not offer hard money 
with one hand, and paper with the other, and 
tell the creditor to take his choice. No! he 
offers paper or nothing ! To talk of willing 
ness, when there is no choice, is insult, mockery 
and outrage. Great is the loss of popularity 
which this administration has sustained from 
paying out depreciated paper ; great the decep 
tion which has been practised upon the gov 
ernment in representing this paper as being 
willingly received. Necessity, and not good 
will, ruled the creditor; indignation, resent 
ment, and execrations on the administration, 
were the thanks with which he received it. 
This has disgraced and injured the administra 
tion more than all other causes put together ; 
it has lost it tens of thousands of true friends. 
It is now getting into a condition to pay hard 
money ; and this resolution comes to prevent 
such payment, and to continue and to perpetu 
ate the ruinous paper-money payments. Defeat 
the resolution, and the government will quickly 
pay all demands upon it in gold and silver, and 
will recover its popularity ; pass it, and paper 
money will continue to be paid out, and the ad 
ministration will continue to lose ground. 

The resolution proposes to make the notes of 
<)00 banks the currency of the general govern 
ment, and the mover of the resolution tells you, 
at the same time, that all these banks will fail ! 
that they cannot continue specie payments if 



they begin ! that nothing but a national bank 
can hold them up to specie payments, and that 
we have no such bank. This is the language 
of the mover ; it is the language, also, of all his 
party; more than that it is the language of 
Mr. Biddle's letter that letter which is the 
true exposition of the principles and policy of 
the opposition party. Here, then, is a proposi 
tion to compel the administration, by law, to 
give up the public lands for the paper of banks 
which are to fail to fill the Treasury with the 
paper of such banks and to pay out such 
paper to the public creditors. This is the prop 
osition, and it is nothing but another form of 
accomplishing what was attempted in this 
chamber a few weeks ago, namely, a direct re 
ceipt of irredeemable paper money ! That prop 
osition was too naked and glaring ; it was too 
rank and startling; it was rebuked and repulsed. 
A circuitous operation is now to accomplish 
what was then too rashly attempted by a direct 
movement. Receive the notes of 900 banks for 
the lands and duties ; these 900 banks will all 
fail again ; so says the mover, because there is 
no king bank to regulate them. We have then 
lost our lands and revenues, and filled our 
Treasury with irredeemable paper. This is 
just the point aimed at by the original propo 
sition to receive irredeemable paper in the first 
instance : it ends in the reception of such 
paper. If the resolution passes, there will be 
another explosion : for the receivability of these 
notes for the public dues, and especially for the 
public lands, will run out another vast expan 
sion of the paper system to be followed, of 
course, by another general explosion. The only 
way to save the banks is to hold them down to 
specie payments. To do otherwise, and espe 
cially to do what this resolution proposes, is to 
make the administration the instrument of its 
own disgrace and degradation to make it join 
in the ruin of the finances and the currency in 
the surrender of the national domain for broken 
bank paper and in producing a new cry for a 
national bank, as the only remedy for the evils 
it has produced. 

[The measure proposed by Mr. CLAY was de 
feated, and the experiment of a specie currency 
for the government was continued.] 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



CHAPTER XXIII. 

BESUMPTION BY THE PENNSYLVANIA. UNITED 
STATES BANK ; AND OTHERS WHICH FOLLOW 
ED HER LEAD. 

THE resumption by the New York banks had 
its effect. Their example was potent, either to 
suspend or resume. All the banks in the Union 
had followed their example in stopping specie 
payments: more than half of them followed 
them in recommencing payments. Those which 
did not recommence became obnoxious to pub 
lic censure, and to the suspicion of either dis 
honesty or insolvency. At the head of this de 
linquent class stood the Bank of the United 
States, justly held accountable by the public 
v<nce for the delinquency of all the rest. Her 
position became untenable. She was compelled 
to descend from it ; and, making a merit of ne 
cessity, she affected to put herself at the head 
of a general resumption ; and in pursuance of 
that idea invited, in the month of July, through 
a meeting of the Philadelphia banks, a general 
meeting in that city on the 25th of that month, 
to consult and fix a time for resumption. A 
few banks sent delegates; others sent letters, 
agreeing to whatever might be done. In all 
there were one hundred and forty delegates, or 
tetters, from banks in nine States ; and these 
delegates and letters forming themselves into a 
general convention of banks, passed a resolution 
for a general resumption on the 13th of August 
ensuing. And thus ended this struggle to act 
upon the government through the distresses of 
the country, and coerce it into a repeal of the 
specie circular into a recharter of the United 
States Bank the restoration of the deposits 
and the adoption of the notes of this bank for a 
national currency. The game had been over 
played. The public saw through it, and derived 
a lesson from it which put bank and state per 
manently apart, and led to the exclusive use of 
gold and silver by the federal government ; and 
the exclusive keeping of its own moneys by its 
own treasurers. All right-minded people re 
joiced at the issue of the struggle ; but there 
kvere some that well knew that the resumption 
an the part of the Bank of the United States 
vas hollow and deceptive that she had no 



foundations, and would stop again, and for ever 
I said this to Mr. Van Buren at the time, and 
he gave the opinion I expressed a better accept 
ance than he had accorded to the previous one 
in February, 1837. Parting from him at the 
end of the session, 1838-'39, 1 said to him, this 
bank would stop before we meet again ; that is 
to say, before I should return to Congress. It 
did so, and for ever. At meeting him the ensu 
ing November, he was the first to remark upon 
the truth c f these predictions. 



CHAPTER XXIV. 

PROPOSED ANNEXATION OF TEXAS : MR. PRES 
TON'S MOTION AND SPEECH : EXTRACTS. 

THE republic of Texas had now applied for ad 
mission into the federal Union, as one of its 
States. Its minister at Washington, Memucan 
Hunt, Esq., had made the formal application to 
our executive government. That was one ob 
stacle in the way of annexation removed. It 
was no longer an insult to her to propose to 
annex her; and she having consented, it referred 
the question to the decision of the United 
States. But there was still another objection, 
and which was insuperable : Texas was still at 
war with Mexico ; and to annex her was to an 
nex the war a consequence which morality 
and policy equally rejected. Mr. PRESTON, of 
South Carolina, brought in a resolution on the 
subject not for annexation, but for a legisla 
tive expression in favor of the measure, as a 
basis for a tripartite treaty between the United 
States, Mexico and Texas ; so as to effect the 
annexation by the consent of all parties, to 
avoid all cause of offence ; and unite our own 
legislative with the executive authority in ac 
complishing the measure. In support of this 
motion, he delivered a speech which, as showing 
the state of the question at the time, and pre 
senting sound views, and as constituting a link 
in the history of the Texas annexation, is here 
introduced some extracts to exhibit its lead 
ing ideas. 

" The proposition which I now submit in re 
gard to this prosperous and self-dependent State 
would be indecorous and presumptuous, had not 



ANNO 1838. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



95 



the lead been given by Texas hcrpelf. It ap 
pears by the correspondence of the envoy extra 
ordinary of that republic with our own govern 
ment, that the question of annexation on certain 
terms and conditions has been submitted to the 
people of the republic, and decided in the affirm 
ative by a very large majority ; whereupon, and 
in pursuance of instructions from his govern 
ment, he proposes to open a negotiation for the 
accomplishment of that object. The correspond 
ence has been communicated upon a call from 
the House of Representatives, and thus the 
proposition becomes a fit subject for the delibe 
ration of Congress. Nor is it proposed by my 
resolution, Mr. President, to do any thing which 
could be justly construed into cause of offence 
by Mexico. The terms of the resolution guard 
our relations with that republic ; and the spirit 
in which it is conceived is entirely averse to 
any compromise of our national faith and honor, 
for any object, of whatever magnitude. More 
especially would I have our intercourse with 
Mexico characterized by fair dealing and mode 
ration, on account of her unfortunate condition, 
resulting from a long-continued series of intes 
tine dissensions, which all who have not been 
born to liberty must inevitably encounter in 
seeking for it. As long, therefore, as the pre 
tensions of Mexico are attempted to be asserted 
by actual force, or as long as there is any rea 
sonable prospect that she has the power and the 
will to resubjugate Texas, I do not propose to 
interfere. My own deliberate conviction, to be 
sure, is. that that period has already passed; 
and I beg leave to say that, in my judgment, 
there is more danger of an invasion and con 
quest of Mexico by Texas, than that this last 
will ever be reannexed to Mexico. 

' ; I disavow, Mr. President, all hostile pur 
poses, or even ill temper, towards Mexico ; and 
I trust that I impugn neither the policy nor 
principles of the administration. I therefore 
feel myself at liberty to proceed to the discus 
sion cf the points made in the resolution, en 
tirely disembarrassed of any preliminary ob 
stacle, unless, indeed, the mode by which so 
important an act is to be effected may be con 
sidered as interposing a difficulty. If the ob 
ject itself be within the competency of this gov 
ernment, as I shall hereafter endeavor to show, 
and both parties consent, every means mutually 
agreed upon would establish a joint obligation. 
The acquisition of new territory has heretofore 
been effected by treaty, and this mode of pro 
ceeding in regard to Texas has been proposed 
by her minister ; but I believe it would com 
port more with the importance of the measure, 
that both branches of the government should 
concur, the legislature expressing a previous 
opinion ; and, this being done, all difficulties, 
of all kinds whatsoever, real or imaginary, 
might be avoided by a treaty tripartite between 
Mexico, Texas, and the United States, in which 
the assent and confirmation of Mexico (for a 



pecuniary consideration, if you choose) might 
be had, without infringing the acknowledged 
independence and free agency of Texas. 

" The treaty, Mr. President, of 1819, was a 

treat oversight on the part of the Southern 
tates. We went into it blindly, I must say. 
The great importance of Florida, to which the 
public mind was strongly awakened at that 
time by peculiar circumstances, led us precip 
itately into a measure by which we threw a 
gem away that would have bought ten Flori- 
das. Under any circumstances, Florida would 
have been ours in a short tune ; but our impa 
tience induced us to purchase it by a territory 
ten times as large a hundred times as fertile, 
and to give five millions of dollars into the bar 
gain. Sir, I resign myself to what is done ; I 
acquiesce in the inexorable past ; I propose no 
wild and chimerical revolution in the established 
order of things, for the purpose of remedying 
what I conceive to have been wrong originally. 
But this I do propose : that we should seize the 
fair and just occasion now presented to remedy 
the mistake which was made in 1819 ; that we 
should repair as far as we can the eyil effect of 
a breach of the constitution; that we should 
re-establish the integrity of our dismembered 
territory, and get back into our Union, by the 
just and honorable means providentially offered 
to us, that fair and fertile province which, in an 
evil hour, we severed from the confederacy. 

" But the boundary line established by the 
treaty of 1819 not only deprives us of this ex 
tensive and fertile territory, but winds with " a 
deep indent " upon the valley of the Mississippi 
itself, running upon the Red River and the Ar 
kansas. It places a foreign nation in the rear 
of our Mississippi settlements, and brings it 
within a stone's throw of that great outlet 
which discharges the commerce of half the 
Union. The mouth of the Sabine and the 
mouth of the Mississippi are of a dangerous 
vicinity. The great object of the purchase of 
Louisiana was to remove all possible interfer 
ence of foreign States in the vast commerce of 
the outlet of so many States. By the cession 
of Texas, this policy was, to a certain extent, 
compromised. 

" The committee, it appears to me, has been 
led to erroneous conclusions on this subject by 
a fundamental mistake as to the nature and 
character of our government ; a mistake which 
has pervaded and perverted all its reasoning, 
and has for a long time been the abundant 
source of much practical mischief in the action 
of this government, and of very dangerous spec 
ulation. The mistake lies in considering this, 
as to its nature and powers, a consolidated gov 
ernment of one people, instead of a confederated 
government of many States. There is no one 
single act performed by the people of the United 
States, under the constitution, as one people. 
Even in the popular branch of Congress this 
distinction is maintained. A certain number 



96 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



of delegates is assigned to each State, and the 
people of each State elect for their own State. 
When the functionaries of the government as 
semble here, they have no source of power but 
the constitution, which prescribes, defines, and 
limits their action, and constitutes them, in 
their aggregate capacity, a trust or agency, for 
the performance of certain duties confided to 
them by various States or communities. This 
government is, therefore, a confederacy of sov 
ereign States, associating themselves together 
for mutual advantages. They originally came 
together as sovereign States, having no authori 
ty and pretending to no power of reciprocal 
control. North Carolina and Ehode Island 
stood off for a time, refusing to join the con 
federacy, and at length came into it by the ex 
ercise of a sovereign discretion. So too of Mis 
souri, who was a State fully organized and per 
fect, and self-governed, before she was a State 
of this Union ; and, in the very nature of things, 
this has been the case with all the States here 
tofore admitted, and must always continue to 
be so. Where, then, is the difficulty of admit 
ting another State into this confederacy ? The 
power to admit new States is expressly given. 
" New States may be admitted by the Congress 
into this Union." By the very terms of the 
grant, they must be States before they are ad 
mitted ; when admitted, they become States of 
the Union. The terms, restrictions, and prin 
ciples upon which new States are to be received, 
are matters to be regulated by Congress, under 
the constitution. 

" Heretofore, in the acquisition of Louisiana 
and Florida, ^France and Spain both stipulated 
that the inhabitants of the ceded territories 
should be incorporated in the Union of the 
United States as soon as may be consistent 
with the principles of the federal constitution, 
and admitted to all the privileges, rights, and 
immunities of the citizens of the United States. 
In compliance with this stipulation, Louisiana, 
Arkansas, and Missouri have been admitted into 
the Union, and at no distant day Florida will 
be. Now, if we contract with France and Spain 
for the admission of States, why shall we not 
with Texas ? If France can sell to us her sub 
jects and her territory, why cannot the people 
of Texas give themselves and their territory to 
us ? Is it more consistent with our republican 
notions that men and territory can be trans 
ferred by the arbitrary will of a monarch, for a 
price, than that a free people may be associated 
with us by mutual consent ? 

" It is supposed that there is a sort of politi 
cal impossibility, resulting from the nature of 
things, to effect the proposed union. The com 
mittee says that " the measure is in fact the un 
ion of two independent governments." Cer 
tainly the union of twenty-seven " independent 
governments ; " but the committee adds, that 
it should rather be termed the dissolution of 
both, and the formation of a new one, which, 



whether founded on the same or another writ 
ten constitution, is, as to its identity, differenf 
from either. This can only be effected by the 
summum jus , &c. 

" A full answer to this objection, even if man} 
others were not at hand, as far as Texas is con 
cerned, is contained in the fact that the sum- 
mum jus has been exercised. 

" Her citizens, by a unanimous vote, have de 
cided in favor of annexation ; and, according to 
the admission of the committee, this is suffi 
ciently potent to dissolve their government, and 
to surrender themselves to be absorbed by ours. 
To receive this augmentation of our territory 
and population, manifestly does not dissolve this 
government, or even remodel it. Its identity is 
not disturbed. There is no appeal necessary to 
the summum jus populi for such a political ar 
rangement on our part, even if the summum 
jus populi could be predicated of this govern 
ment, which it cannot. Now, it is very ob 
vious that two free States may associate for 
common purposes, and that these common pur 
poses may be multiplied in number or increased 
in importance at the discretion of the parties. 
They may establish a common agency for the 
transaction of their business ; and this may in 
clude a portion or all of their political func 
tions. The new creation may bo an agency if 
created by States, or a government if created 
by the people ; for the people have a right to 
abolish and create governments. Does any one 
doubt whether Texas could rejoin the republic 
of Mexico ? Why not, then, rejoin this repub 
lic ? 

" No one doubts that the States now compos 
ing this Union might have joined Great Britain 
after the declaration of independence. The 
learned committee would not contend that there 
was a political impossibility in the union of 
Scotland and England, or of Ireland and Brit 
ain ; or that, in the nature of things, it would 
be impossible for Louisiana, if she were a sov 
ereign State out of this Union, to join with the 
sovereign State of Texas in forming a new gov 
ernment. 

" There is no point of view in which the prop 
osition for annexation can be considered, that 
any serious obstacle in point of form presents 
itself. If this government be a confederation 
of States, then it is proposed to add another 
State to the confederacy. If this government 
be a consolidation, then it is proposed to add to 
it additional territory and population. That 
we can annex, and afterwards admit, the cases 
of Florida and Louisiana prove. We can, there 
fore, deal with the people of Texas for the ter 
ritory of Texas, and the people can be secured 
in the rights and privileges of the constitution, 
as were the subjects of Spain and France. 

"The Massachusetts legislature experience 
much difficulty in ascertaining the mode of ac 
tion by which the proposed annexation can be 
effected, and demand " in what form would be 



ANNO 1838. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



97 



the practical exercise of the supposed power ? 
In what department does it lie?" The pro 
gress of events already, in a great measure, an 
swers this objection. Texas has taken the ini 
tiative. Her minister has introduced the sub 
ject to that department which is alone capable 
of receiving communications from foreign gov 
ernments, and the executive has submitted the 
correspondence to Congress. The resolutions 
before you propose an expression of opinion by 
Congress, which, if made, the executive will 
doubtless address itself earnestly ; in conjunc 
tion with the authorities of Texas, to the con 
summation of the joint wishes of the parties, 
which can be accomplished by treaty, emanat 
ing from one department of this government, to 
be carried into effect by the passage of all need 
ful laws by the legislative department, and by 
the exercise of the express power of Congress 
to admit new States." 

The proposition of Mr. Preston did not pre 
vail ; the period for the annexation of Texas had 
not yet arrived. War still existing between 
Mexico and Texas the status of the two coun 
tries being that of war, although hostilities 
hardly existed a majority of the Senate deem 
ed it unadvisable even to take the preliminary 
steps towards annexation which his resolution 
-proposed. A motion to lay the proposition on 
the table prevailed, by a vote of 24 to 14. 



CHAPTER XXV. 

DEBATE BETWEEN ME. CLAY AND MR. CAL- 
IIOUN, PERSONAL AND POLITICAL, AND LEAD 
ING TO EXPOSITIONS AND VINDICATIONS OF 
PUBLIC CONDUCT WHICH BELONG TO HISTO 
RY. 

FOR seven years past Mr. Calhoun, while dis 
claiming connection with any party, had acted 
on leading measures with the opposition, head 
ed by Messrs. Clay and Webster. Still dis 
claiming any such connection, he was found at 
the extra session co-operating with the admin 
istration. His co-operation with the opposition 
had given it the yictory in many eventful con 
tests in that long period ; his co-operation with 
the Van Buren administration might turn the 
tide of victory. The loss or gain of a chief 
who in a nearly balanced state of parties, could 
carry victory to the side which he espoused, 
was an event not to be viewed without vexation 

VOL. II. 7 



by the party which he left. Resentment was 
as natural on one side as gratification was on 
the other. The democratic party had made nr. 
reproaches (I speak of the debates in Con 
gress) when Mr. Calhoun left them ; they de 
bated questions with him as if there had been 
no cause for personal complaint. Not so with 
the opposition now when the course of his tran 
sit was reversed, and the same event occurred 
to themselves. They took deeply to heart this 
withdrawal of one of their leaders, and his ap 
pearance on the other side. It created a feel 
ing of personal resentment against Mr. Calhoun 
which had manifested itself in several small 
side-blows at the extra session ; and it broke 
out into systematic attack at the regular onr. 
Some sharp passages took place between himself 
and Mr. Webster, but not of a kind to lead to 
any thing historical. He (Mr. Webster) was but 
slightly inclined towards that kind of speaking 
which mingles personality with argument, and 
lessens the weight of the adversary argument 
by reducing the weight of the speaker's char 
acter. Mr. Clay had a turn that way ; and, cer 
tainly, a great ability for it. Invective, mingled 
with sarcasm, was one of the phases of his ora 
tory. He was supreme at a philippic (taken in 
the sense of Demosthenes and Cicero), where the 
political attack on a public man's measure was 
to be enforced and heightened by a personal 
attack on his conduct. He owed much of his 
fascinating power over his hearers to the exer 
cise of this talent always so captivating in a 
popular assembly, and in the galleries of the 
Senate ; not so much so in the Senate itself ; 
and to him it naturally fell to become the organ 
of the feelings of his party towards Mr. Cal 
houn. And very cordially, and carefully, and 
amply, did he make preparation for it. 

The storm had been gathering since Septem 
ber : it burst in February. It had been evi 
dently waiting for an occasion : and found it in 
the first speech of Mr. Calhoun, of that session, 
in favor of Mr. Van Buren's recommendation for 
an independent treasury and a federal hard- 
money currency. This speech was delivered the 
15th of February, and was strictly argumenta 
tive and parliamentary, and wholly confined to 
its subject. Four days thereafter Mr. Clay an 
swered it ; and although ready at an extempo 
raneous speech, he had the merit, when time per 
mitted, of considering well both the matter and 



98 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



the words of what he intended to deliver. On 
this occasion he had had ample time j for the 
speech of Mr. Calhoun could not be essentially 
different from the one he delivered on the same 
subject at the extra session ; and the personal 
act which excited his resentment was of the 
same date. There had been six months for pre 
paration ; and fully had preparation been made. 
The whole speech bore the impress of careful 
elaboration and especially the last part ; for it 
consisted of two distinct parts the first, argu 
mentative, and addressed to the measure before 
the Senate : and was in fact, as well as in name, 
a reply. The second part was an attack, under 
the name of a reply, and was addressed to the 
personal conduct of Mr. Calhoun, reproaching 
him with his desertion (as it was called), and 
taunting him with the company he had got 
into taking care to remind him of his own 
former sad account of that company : and then, 
launching into a wider field, he threw up to 
him all the imputed political delinquencies of 
his life for near twenty years skipping none 
from 1816 down to the extra session ; al 
though he himself had been in close political 
friendship with this alleged delinquent during 
the greater part of that long time. Mr. Calhoun 
saw at once the advantage which this general 
and sweeping assault put into his hands. Had 
the attack been confined to the mere circum 
stance of quitting one side and joining the other, 
it might have been treated as a mere personali 
ty ; and, either left unnoticed, or the account 
settled at once with some ready words of retort 
and justification. But in going beyond the act 
which gave the offence beyond the cause of re 
sentment, which was recent, and arraigning a 
member on the events of almost a quarter of a 
century of public life, he went beyond the lim 
its of the occasion, and gave Mr. Calhoun the 
opportunity of explaining, or justifying, or ex 
cusing all that had ever been objected to him ; 
and that with the sympathy in the audience 
with which attack for ever invests the rights 
of defence. He saw his advantage, and availed 
himself of it. Though prompt at a reply, he 
chose to make none in a hurry. A pause en 
sued Mr. Clay's conclusion, every one deferring 
to Mr. Calhoun's right of reply. He took the 
floor, but it was only to say that he would re 
ply at his leisure to the senator from Ken- 
tuckj 



He did reply, and at his own good time, which 
was at the end of twenty days ; and in a way 
to show that he had " smelt the lamp," not of 
Denudes, but of Demosthenes, during that time, 
It was profoundly meditated and elaborately 
composed : the matter solid and condensed ; 
the style chaste, terse and vigorous ; the narra 
tive clear ; the logic close ; the sarcasm cutting : 
and every word bearing upon the object in view. 
It was a masterly oration, and like Mr. Clay's 
speech, divided into two parts ; but the second 
part only seemed to occupy his feelings, and 
bring forth words from the heart as well as from 
the head. And well it might ! He was speak 
ing, not for life, but for character ! and defend 
ing public character, in the conduct which makes 
it, and on high points of policy, which belonged 
to history defending it before posterity and the 
present age, impersonated in the American Sen 
ate, before which he stood, and to whom he ap 
pealed as judges while invoking as witnesses. 
He had a high occasion, and he felt it ; a high 
tribunal to plead before, and he rejoiced in it j 
a high accuser, and he defied him ; a high stake 
to contend for, his own reputation : and manful 
ly, earnestly, and powerfully did he defend it. 
He had a high example both in oratory, and in 
the analogies of the occasion, before him ; and 
well had he looked into that example. I hap 
pened to know that in this time he refreshed 
his reading of the Oration on the Crown ; and, 
as the delivery of his speech showed, not with 
out profit. Besides its general cast, which was 
a good imitation, there were passages of a vigor 
and terseness of a power and simplicity 
which would recall the recollection of that mas 
terpiece of the oratory of the world. There 
were points of analogy in the cases as well as in 
the speeches, each case being that of one emi 
nent statesman accusing another, and before a 
national tribunal, and upon the events of a pub 
lic life. More happy than the Athenian orator, 
the American statesman had no foul imputations 
to repel. Different from ^Eschines and Demos 
thenes, both himself and Mr. Clay stood above 
the imputation of corrupt action or motive. If 
they had faults, and what public man is without 
them ? they were the faults of lofty natures 
not of sordid souls; and they looked to the 
honors of their country not its plunder for 
their fair reward. 

When Mr. Calhoun finished, Mr. Clay in- 



ANNO 1838. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



99 



stantly arose, and rejoined his rejoinder almost 
entirely directed to the personal part of the dis 
cussion, which from its beginning had been the 
absorbing part. Much stung by Mr. Calhoun's 
reply, who used the sword as well as the buck 
ler, and with a keen edge upon it, he was more 
animated and sarcastic in the rejoinder than in 
the first attack. Mr. Calhoun also rejoined in 
stantly. A succession of brief and rapid re 
joinders took place between them (chiefly omit 
ted in this work), which seemed running to in 
finity, when Mr. Calhoun, satisfied with what 
he had done, pleasantly put an and to it by say 
ing, he saw the senator from Kentucky was de 
termined to have the last word ; and he would 
yield it to him. Mr. Clay, in the same spirit, 
disclaimed that desire ; and said no more. And 
thus the exciting debate terminated with more 
courtesy than that with which it had been con 
ducted. 

In all contests of this kind there is a feeling 
of violated decorum which makes each party 
solicitous to appear on the defensive, and for 
that purpose to throw the blame of commencing 
on the opposite side. Even the one that pal 
pably throws the first stone is yet anxious to 
show that it was a defensive throw ; or at least 
provoked by previous wrong. Mr. Clay had 
this feeling upon him, and knew that the onus 
of making out a defensive case fell upon him ; 
and he lost no time in endeavoring to establish 
it. He placed his defence in the forepart of the 
attack. At the very outset of the personal part 
of his speech he attended to this essential pre 
liminary, and found the justification, as he be 
lieved, in some expressions of Mr. Calhoun in 
his sub-treasury speech ; and in a couple of 
passages in a letter he had written on a public 
occasion, after his return from the extra session 
commonly called the Edgefield letter. In the 
speech he believed he found a reproach upon 
the patriotism of himself and friends in not fol 
lowing his (Mr. Calhoun's) " lead " in support 
of the administration financial and currency 
measures; and in the letter, an impeachment 
of the integrity and patriotism of himself and 
friends if they got into power; and also an 
avowal that his change of sides was for selfish 
considerations. The first reproach, that of lack 
Of patriotism in not following Mr. Calhoun's 
lead, he found it hard to locate in any definite 
part of the speech ; and had to rest it upon gene 



ral expressions. The others, those founded 
upon passages in the letter, were definitely 
quoted ; and were in these terms : " / could 
not back and sustain those in such opposition 
in whose wisdom, firmness and patriotism 1 
had no reason to confide" "It was cleai. 
with our joint forces (whigs and nulUfiers) 
we could utterly overthrow and demolish 
them ; but it was not less clear that the vic 
tory would enure, not to us, but exclusively to 
the benefit of our allies, and their cause." 
These passages were much commented upon, 
especially in the rejoinders; and the whole let 
ter produced by Mr. Calhoun, and the meaning 
claimed for them fully stated by him. 

In the speeches for and against the crown we 
see Demosthenes answering what has not been 
found in the speech of Eschines: the same 
anomaly took place in this earnest debate, as 
reported between Mr. Clay and Mr. Calhoun. 
The latter answers much which is not found in 
the published speech to which he is replying. 
It gave rise to some remark between the 
speakers during the rejoinders. Mr. Calhoun 
said he was replying to the speech as spoken. 
Mr. Clay said it was printed under his super 
vision as much as to say he sanctioned the 
omissions. The fact is, that with a commend 
able feeling, he had softened some parts, and 
omitted others ; for that which is severe enough 
in speaking, becomes more so in writing ; and 
its omission or softening is a tacit retraction, 
and honorable to the cool reflection which con 
demns what passion, or heat, had prompted. 
But Mr. Calhoun did not accept the favor: and, 
neither party desiring quarter, the one answer 
ed what had been dropt, and the other re-pro 
duced it, with interest. In his rejoinders, Mr. 
Clay supplied all that had been omitted and 
made additions to it. 

This contest between two eminent men, on a 
theatre so elevated, in which the stake to each 
was so great, and in which each did his best, 
conscious that the eye of the age and of posterity 
was upon him, was an event in itself, and in 
their lives. It abounded with exemplifications 
of all the different sorts of oratory of which 
each was master: on one side declamation, 
impassioned eloquence, vehement invective, 
taunting sarcasm : on the other close reason 
ing, chaste narrative, clear statement, keen re 
tort. Two accessories of such contests (disrup- 



IOC 



THIRTY "SEARS' VIEW". 



tions of friendships), were missing, and well 
the pathetic and the virulent. There was no 
crying, or blackguarding in it nothing like the 
weeping scene between Fox and Burke, when 
the heart overflowed with tenderness at the re 
collection of former love, now gone forever ; nor 
like the virulent one when the gall, overflowing 
with bitterness, warned an ancient friend never 
to return as a spy to the camp which he had 
left as a deserter. 

There were in the speeches of each some re 
markable passages, such only as actors hi the 
scenes could furnish, and which history will 
claim. Thus : Mr. Clay gave some inside views 
of the concoction of the famous compromise act 
of 1833 ; which, so far as they go, correspond 
with the secret history of the same concoction 
as given hi one of the chapters on that subject 
in the first volume of this work. Mr. Clay's 
speech is also remarkable for the declaration 
that the protective system, which he so long 
advocated, was never intended to be permanent : 
that its only design was to give temporary en 
couragement to infant manufactures : and that it 
had fulfilled its mission. Mr. Calhoun's speech 
was also remarkable for admitting the power, 
and the expediency of incidental protection, as 
it was called ; and on this ground he justified 
his support of the tariff of 1816 so much ob 
jected against him. He also gave his history of 
the compromise of 1833, attributing it to the effi 
cacy of nullification and of the military attitude 
of South Carolina : which brought upon him the 
relentless sarcasm of Mr. Clay j and occasioned 
his explanation of his support of a national 
bank in 1816. He was chairman of the com 
mittee which reported the charter for that bank, 
and gave it the support which carried it through ; 
with which he was reproached after he became 
opposed to the bank. He explained the cir 
cumstances under which he gave that support 
such as I had often heard him state in con 
versation ; and which always appeared to me to 
be sufficient to exempt him from reproach. At 
the same time (and what is but little known), 
he had the merit of opposing, and probably of 
defeating, a far more dangerous bank one of 
fifty millions (equivalent to one hundred and 
twenty millions now), and founded almost 
wholly upon United States stocks imposingly 
recommended to Congress by the then secretary 
f the Treasury, Mr. Alexander J. Dallas. The 



analytical mind of Mr. Calhoun, then one of th 
youngest members, immediately solved this 
monster proposition into its constituent ele 
ments ; and his power of generalization and 
condensation, enabled him to express its char 
acter in two words lending our credit to tht 
bank for nothing, and borrowing it back ai 
six per cent, interest. As an alternative, and 
not as a choice, he supported the national bank 
that was chartered, after twice defeating the 
monster bank of fifty millions founded on paper; 
for that monster was twice presented to Con 
gress, and twice repulsed. The last time it 
came as a currency measure as a bank to 
create a national currency ; and as such was re 
ferred to a select committee on national cur 
rency, of which Mr. Calhoun was chairman. 
He opposed it, and fell into the support of the 
bank which was chartered. Strange that in 
this search for a national bank, the currency of 
the constitution seemed to enter no one's head. 
The revival of the gold currency was never sug 
gested ; and in that oblivion of gold, and still 
hunting a substitute in paper, the men who put 
down the first national bank did their work 
much less effectually that those who put down 
the second one. 

The speech of each of these senators, so far as 
they constitute the personal part of the debate, 
will be given in a chapter of its own : the re 
joinders being brief, prompt, and responsive 
each to the other, will be put together in 
another chapter. The speeches of each, having 
been carefully prepared and elaborated, may bft 
considered as fair specimens of their speaking 
powers the style of each different, but each a 
first class speaker in the branch of oratory to 
which he belonged. They may be read with 
profit by those who would wish to form an idea 
of the style and power of these eminent orators. 
Manner, and all that is comprehended under the 
head of delivery, is a different attribute ; and 
there Mr. Clay had an advantage, which is lost 
in transferring the speech to paper. Some ol 
Mr. Calhoun's characteristics of manner may be 
seen in these speeches. He esohewed the stud 
ied exordiums and perorations, ouce so much in 
vogue, and which the rhetorician's rules teach 
how to make. A few simple words to an 
nounce the beginning, and the same to show 
the ending of his speech, was about as much as 
he did in that way j and in that departure from 



ANNO 1838. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



101 



custom he conformed to what was becoming in 
a business speech, as his generally were ; and 
also to what was suitable to his own intellectual 
style of speaking. He also eschewed the trite, 
familiar, and unparliamentary mode (which of 
late has got into vogue) of referring to a sena 
tor as, " my friend," or, " the distinguished," or, 
' the eloquent," or, " the honorable," &c. He 
followed the written rule of parliamentary law; 
which is also the clear rule of propriety, and 
referred to the member by his sitting-place in 
the Senate, and the State from which he came. 
Thus : " the senator from Kentucky who sits 
farthest from me ; " which was a sufficient desig 
nation to those present, while for the absent, 
and for posterity the name (Mr. Clay) would 
be put in brackets. He also addressed the body 
by the simple collective phrase, " senators ; " 
and this was, not accident, or fancy, but system, 
resulting from convictions of propriety ; and he 
would allow no reporter to alter it. 

Mr. Calhoun laid great stress upon his 
speech in this debate, as being the vindica 
tion of his public life; and declared, in one of his 
replies to Mr. Clay, that he rested his public 
character upon it, and desired it to be read by 
those who would do him justice. In justice to 
him, and as being a vindication of several meas 
ures of his mentioned in this work, not approv 
ingly, a place is here given to it. 

This discussion between two eminent men, 
growing out of support and opposition to the 
leading measures of Mr. Van Buren's adminis 
tration, indissolubly connects itself with the 
passage of those measures ; and gives additional 
emphasis and distinction to the era of the 
crowning policy which separated bank and 
state made the government the keeper of its 
own money repulsed paper money from the 
federal treasury filled the treasury to bursting 
with solid gold ; and did more for the prosperi 
ty of the country than any set of measures from 
the foundation of the government. 



CHAPTER XXVI. 

DEBATE BETWEEN MB. CLAY AND MR. CAL 
HOUN : MR. CLAY'S SPEECH : EXTRACTS. 

" WHO, Mr. President, are the most conspicu 
ous of those who perseveringly pressed this 
bill upon Congress and the American people ? 
Its drawer is the distinguished gentleman in 
the white house not far off {Mr. VAN BUREN) ; 
its indorser is the distinguished senator from 
South Carolina, here present. What the draw 
er thinks of the indorser, his cautious reserve 
and stifled enmity prevent us from knowing. 
But the frankness of the indorser has not left 
us in the same ignorance with respect to his 
opinion of the drawer. He has often expressed 
it upon the floor of the Senate. On an occasion 
not very distant, denying him any of the noble 
qualities of the royal beast of the forest, he at 
tributed to him those which belong to the most 
crafty, most skulking, and the meanest of the 
quadruped tribe. Mr. President, it is due to 
myself to say, that I do not altogether share 
with the senator from South Carolina in this 
opinion of the President of the United States. 
I have always found him, in his manners and 
deportment, civil, courteous, and gentlemanly ; 
and he dispenses, in the noble mansion which 
he now occupies, one worthy the residence of 
the chief magistrate of a great people, a gener 
ous and liberal hospitality. An acquaintance 
with him of more than twenty years' duration 
has inspired me with a respect for the man, 
although, I regret to be compelled to say, I de 
test the magistrate. 

" The eloquent senator from South Carolina 
has intimated that the course of my friends and 
myself, in opposing this bill, was unpatriotic, 
and that we ought to have followed in his lead ; 
and, in a late letter of his, he has spoken of his 
alliance with us, and of his motives for quitting 
it. I cannot admit the justice of his reproach. 
We united, if, indeed, there were any alliance in 
the case, to restrain the enormous expansion of 
executive power ; to arrest the progress of cor 
ruption ; to rebuke usurpation ; and to drive 
the Goths and Vandals from the capital ; to ex 
pel Brennus and his horde from Rome, who, 
when he threw his sword into the scale, to aug 
ment the ransom demanded from the mistress 
of the world, showed his preference for gold ; 
that he was a hard-money chieftain. It was 
by the much more valuable metal of iron that 
he was driven from her gates. And how often 
have we witnessed the senator from South 
Carolina, with woful countenance, and in dole 
ful strains, pouring forth touching and mourn 
ful eloquence on the degeneracy of the times, 
and the downward tendency <sf the republic ? 
Day after day, in the Senate, have we seen th 



102 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



displays of his lofty and impassioned eloquence. 
Although I shared largely with the senator in 
his apprehension for the purity of our institu 
tions, and the permanency of our civil liberty, 
disposed always to look at the brighter side of 
human affairs, I was sometimes inclined to hope 
that the vivid imagination of the senator had 
depicted the dangers by which we were encom 
passed in somewhat stronger colors than they 
justified. 

" The arduous contest in which we were so 
long engaged was about to terminate in a glori 
ous victory. The very object for which the 
alliance was formed was about to be accom 
plished. At this critical moment the senator 
left us ; he left us for the very purpose of pre 
venting the success of the common cause. He 
took up his musket, knapsack, and shot-pouch, 
and joined the other party. He went, horse, 
foot ; and dragoon ; and he himself composed the 
whole corps. He went, as his present most 
distinguished ally commenced with his expung 
ing resolution, solitary and alone. The earliest 
instance recorded in history, within my recol 
lection, of an ally drawing off his forces from 
the combined army, was that of Achilles at the 
siege of Troy. He withdrew, with all his 
troops, and remained in the neighborhood, in 
sullen and dignified inactivity. But he did not 
join the Trojan forces ; and when, during the 
progress of the siege, his faithful friend fell in 
battle, he raised his avenging arm, drove the 
Trojans back into the gates of Troy, and sati 
ated his vengeance by slaying Priam's noblest 
and dearest son, the iinest hero in the immortal 
Iliad. But Achilles had been wronged, or 
imagined himself wronged, in the person of the 
fair and beautiful Briseis. We did no wrong 
to the distinguished senator from South Caro 
lina. On the contrary, we respected him, con 
fided in his great and acknowledged ability, his 
uncommon genius, his extensive experience, his 
supposed patriotism ; above all, we confided in 
his stern and inflexible fidelity. Nevertheless, 
he left us, and joined our common opponents, 
distrusting and distrusted. He left us, as he 
tells us in the Edgefield letter, because the vic 
tory which our common arms were about to 
achieve, was not to enure to him and his party, 
but exclusively to the benefit of his allies and 
their cause. I thought that, actuated by patri 
otism (that noblest of human virtues), we had 
been contending together for our common coun 
try, for her violated rights, her threatened liber 
ties, her prostrate constitution. Never did I 
suppose that personal or party considerations 
entered into our views. Whether, if victory 
shall ever again be about to perch upon the 
standard of the spoils party (the denomination 
which the senator from South Carolina has so 
often given to his present allies), he will not 
feel himself constrained, by the principles on 
which he has acted, to leave them, because it 
may not enure to the benefit of himself and his 



party, I leave to be adjusted between them' 
selves. 

" The speech of the senator from South Caro 
lina was plausible, ingenious, abstract, meta 
physical, and generalizing. It did not appear 
to me to be adapted to the bosoms and business 
of human life. It was aerial, and not very high 
up in the air, Mr. President, either not quite 
as high as Mr. Clayton was in his last ascension 
in his balloon. The senator announced that 
there was a single alternative, and no escape 
from one or the other branch of it. He stated 
that we must take the bill under consideration, 
or the substitute proposed by the senator from 
Virginia. I do not concur in that statement of 
the case. There is another course embraced in 
neither branch of the senator's alternative ; 
and that course is to do nothing. always the 
wisest when you are not certain what you ought 
to do. Let us suppose that neither branch of 
the alternative is accepted, and that nothing is 
done. What, then, would be the consequence ? 
There would be a restoration of the law of 1789, 
with all its cautious provisions and securities, 
provided by the wisdom of our ancestors, which 
has been so trampled upon by the late and 
present administrations. By that law, estab 
lishing the Treasury department, the treasure 
of the United States is to be received, kept, and 
disbursed by the treasurer, under a bond with 
ample security, under a large penalty fixed by 
law, and not left, as this bill leaves it, to the 
uncertain discretion of a Secretary of the Treas 
ury. If, therefore, we were to do nothing, that 
law would be revived ; the treasurer would 
have the custody, as he ought to have, of the 
public money, and doubtless he would make 
special deposits of it in all instances with safe 
and sound State banks ; as in some cases the 
Secretary of the Treasury is now obliged to do. 
Thus, we should have in operation that very 
special deposit system, so much desired by some 
gentlemen, by which the public money would 
remain separate and unmixed with the money 
of banks. 

" There is yet another course, unembraced by 
either branch of the alternative presented by 
the senator from South Carolina ; and that is, 
to establish a bank of the United States, consti 
tuted according to the old and approved method 
of forming such an institution, tested and sanc 
tioned by experience; a bank of the United 
States which should blend public and private 
interests, and be subject to public and private 
control ; united together in such manner as to 
present safe and salutary checks against all 
abuses. The senator mistakes his own aban 
donment of that institution as ours. I know 
that the party in power has barricaded itself 
against the establishment of such a bank. It 
adopted, at the last extra session, the extraor 
dinary and unprecedented resolution, that the 
people of the United States should not have 
such a bank, although it might be manifest that 



ANNO 1838. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



103 



there was a clear majority of them demanding 
it. But the day may come, and I trust is not 
distant, when the will of the people must pre 
vail in the councils of her own government; 
and when it does arrive, a bank will be estab 
lished. 

" The senator from South Carolina reminds 
us that we denounced the pet bank system ; 
and so we did, and so Ave do. But does it 
therefore follow that, bad as that system was, 
we must be driven into the acceptance of a sys 
tem infinitely worse 1 He tells us that the bill 
under consideration takes the public funds out 
of the hands of the Executive, and places them 
in the hands of the law. It does no such thing. 
They are now without law, it is true, in the 
custody of the Executive ; and the bill pro 
poses by law to confirm them in that custody, 
and to convey new and enormous powers of 
control to the Executive over them. Every 
custodary of the public funds provided by the 
bill is a creature of the Executive, dependent 
upon his breath, and subject to the same breath 
for removal, whenever the Executive from 
caprice, from tyranny, or from party motives 
shall choose to order it. What safety is there 
for the public money, if there were a hundred 
subordinate executive officers charged with its 
care, whilst the doctrine of the absolute unity 
of the whole executive power, promulgated by 
the last administration, and persisted in by 
this, remains unrevoked and unrebuked ? 

"Whilst the senator from South Carolina 
professes to be the friend of State banks, he 
has attacked the whole banking system of the 
United States. He is their friend ; he only 
thinks they are all unconstitutional ! Why ? 
Because the coming power is possessed by the 
general government ; and that coining power, 
he argues, was intended to supply a currency 
of the precious metals ; but the State banks 
absorb the precious metals, and withdraw them 
from circulation, and, therefore, are in conflict 
with the coining power. That power, accord 
ing to my view of it, is nothing but a naked 
authority to stamp certain pieces of the precious 
metals, in fixed proportions of alloy and pure 
metal prescribed by law; so that their exact 
value be known. When that office is performed, 
the power is functus officio ; the money passes 
out of the mint, and becomes the lawful prop 
erty of those who legally acquire it. They 
may do with it as they please, throw it into 
the ocean, bury it in the earth, or melt it in a 
crucible, without violating any law. When it 
has once left the vaults of the mint, the law 
maker has nothing to do with it, but to protect 
it against those who attempt to debase or coun 
terfeit, and, subsequently, to pass it as lawful 
money. In the sense in which the senator 
supposes banks to conflict with the coining- 
power, foreign commerce, and especially our 
commerce with China, conflicts with it much 
more extensively. 



" The distinguished senator is no enemy to the 
banks ; he merely thinks them injurious to the 
morals and industry of the country. He likes 
them very well, but he nevertheless believes 
that they levy a tax of twenty-five millions an 
nually on the industry of the country! The 
senator from South Carolina would do the banks 
no harm ; but they are deemed by him highly 
injurious to the planting interest ! According 
to him, they inflate prices, and the poor planter 
sells his productions for hard mone}'-, and has 
to purchase his supplies at the swollen prices 
produced by a paper medium. The senator tells 
us that it has been only within a few days that 
he has discovered that it is illegal to receive bank 
notes in payment of public dues. Does he think 
that the usage of the government under all its 
administrations, and with every party in power, 
which has prevailed for nigh fifty years, ought 
to be set aside by a novel theory of his, just 
dreamed into existence, even if it possess the 
merit of ingenuity ? The bill under considera 
tion, which has been eulogized by the senator 
as perfect in its structure and details, contains a 
provision that bank notes shall be received in 
diminished proportions, during a term of six 
years. He himself introduced the identical 
principle. It is the only part of the bill that is 
emphatically his. How, then, can he contend 
that it is unconstitutional to receive bank notes 
in payment of public dues ? I appeal from him 
self to himself." 

" The doctrine of the senator in 1816 was, as 
he now states it, that bank notes being in fact 
received by the executive, although contrary to 
law, it was constitutional to create a Bank of the 
United States. And in 1834, finding that bank 
which was constitutional in its inception, but 
had become unconstitutional in its progress, yet 
in existence, it was quite constitutional to pro 
pose, as the senator did, to continue it twelve 
years longer." 

" The senator and I began our public career 
nearly together ; we remained together through 
out the war. We agreed as to a Bank of the 
United States as to a protective tariff as to 
internal improvements ; and lately as to those 
arbitrary and violent measures which character 
ized the administration of General Jackson. 
No two men ever agreed better together in re 
spect to important measures of public policy. 
We concur in nothing now." 



CHAPTER XXVII. 

DEBATE BETWEEN MR. CLAY AND ME. CAL- 
IIOUN: ME. CALHOUNS SPEECH; EXTEACT3. 

" I RISE to fulfil a promise I made some time 
since, to notice at my leisure the reply of the 
senator from Kentucky farthest from me [Mr 



104 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



CLAY], to my remarks, when I first addressed 
the Senate on the subject now under discus 
sion. 

" On comparing with care the reply with the 
remarks, I am at a loss to determine whether it 
is the most remarkable for its omissions or mis- 
statements. Instead of leaving not a hair in the 
head of my arguments, as the senator threaten 
ed (to use his not very dignified expression), he 
has not even attempted to answer a large, and 
not the least weighty, portion ; and of that 
which he has, there is not one fairly stated, or 
fairly answered. I speak literally, and without 
exaggeration ; nor would it be difficult to estab 
lish to the letter what I assert, if I could recon 
cile it to myself to consume the time of the 
Senate in establishing a long series of negative 
propositions, in which they could take but little 
interest, however important they may be re 
garded by the senator and myself. To avoid so 
idle a consumption of the time, I propose to 
present a few instances of his misstatements, 
from which the rest may be inferred ; and, that 
I may not be suspected of having selected them, 
I shall take them in the order in which they 
stand in his reply. 

[The argumentative part omitted.] 
" But the senator did not restrict himself to 
a reply to my arguments. He introduced per 
sonal remarks, which neither self-respect, nor a 
regard to the cause I support, will permit me to 
pass without notice, as adverse as I am to all 
personal controversies. Net only my education 
and disposition, but, above all, my conception of 
the duties belonging to the station I occupy, in 
disposes me to such controversies. We are sent 
here, not to wrangle, or indulge in personal 
abuse, but to deliberate and decide on the com 
mon interests of the States of this Union, as far 
as they have been subjected by the constitution 
to our jurisdiction. Thus thinking and feeling, 
and having perfect confidence in the cause I sup 
port, I addressed myself, when I was last up, 
directly and exclusively to the understanding, 
carefully avoiding every remark which had 
the least personal or party bearing. In proof 
of this, I appeal to you, senators, my wit 
nesses and judges on this occasion. But it 
seems that no caution on my part could prevent 
what I was so anxious to avoid. The senator, 
having no pretext to give a personal direction 
to the discussion, made a premeditated and 
gratuitous attack on me. I say having no pre 
text ; for there is not a shadow of foundation for 
the assertion that I called on him and his party 
to follow my lead, at which he seemed to take 
offence, as I have already shown. I made no 
such call, or any thing that could be construed 
into it. It would have been impertinent, in the 
relation between myself and his party, at any 
stage of this question ; and absurd at that late 
period, when every senator had made up his 
mind. As there was, then, neither provocation 
nor pretext, what could be the motive of the 



senator in making the attack ? It could not be 
to indulge in the pleasure of personal abuse the 
lowest and basest of all our passions ; and which 
is so far beneath the dignity of the senator's 
character and station. Nor could it be with the 
view to intimidation. The senator knows m 
too long, and too well, to make such an attempt. 
I am sent here by constituents as respectable 
as tb^se he represents, in order to watch over 
their peculiar interests, and take care of the 
general concern ; and if I were capable of being 
deterred by any one, or any consequence, in 
discharging my duty, from denouncing what I 
regarded as dangerous or corrupt, or giving a 
decided and zealous support to what I thought 
right and expedient, I would, in shame and con 
fusion, return my commission to the patriotic 
and gallant State I represent, to be placed in 
more resolute and trustworthy hands. 

" If, then, neither the one nor the other of 
these be the motive, what, I repeat, can it be ? 
In casting my eyes over the whole surface I caia 
see but one, which is, that the senator, despairing 
of the sufficiency of his reply to overthrow my 
arguments, had resorted to personalities, in the 
hope, with their aid, to effect what he could not 
accomplish by main strength. He well knows 
that the force of an argument on moral or politi 
cal subjects depends greatly on the character of 
him who advanced it ; and that to cast suspicion 
on his sincerity or motive, or to shake confi 
dence in his understanding, is often the most ef 
fectual mode to destroy its force. Thus viewed, 
his personalities may be fairly regarded as con 
stituting a part of his reply to my argument ; 
and we, accordingly, find the senator throwing 
them in front, like a skilful general, in order to 
weaken my arguments before he brought on his 
main attack. In repelling, then, his personal 
attacks, I also defend the cause which I advo 
cate. It is against that his blows are aimed, 
and he strikes at it through me, because he be 
lieves his blows will be the more effectual. 

" Having given this direction to his reply, he 
has imposed on me a double duty to repel his 
attacks : duty to myself, and to the cause I sup 
port. I shall not decline its performance ; and 
when it is discharged, I trust 1 shall have placed 
my character as far beyond the darts which 
he has hurled at it, as my arguments have 
proved to be above his abilities to reply to 
them. In doing this, I shall be compelled to 
speak of myself. No one can be more sensible 
than I am how odious it is to speak of one's 
self. I shall endeavor to confine myself within 
the limits of the strictest propriety j but if any 
thing should escape me that may wound the 
most delicate ear, the odium ought in justice to 
fall not on me, but the senator, who, by his un 
provoked and wanton attack, has imposed on 
me the painful necessity of speaking of mysel 

" The leading charge of the senator that on 
which all the others depend, and which, being 
overthrown, they fall to the ground is that I 



ANNO 1838. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



105 



have gone over ; have left his side, and joined 
the other. By this vague and indefinite ex 
pression, I presume he meant to imply that I 
had either changed iy opinion, or abandoned 
my principle, or deserted my party. If he did 
not mean one, or all ; if I have changed neither 
opinions, principles, nor party, then the charge 
meant nothing deserving notice. But if he in 
tended to imply, what I have presumed he did, 
I take issue on the fact I meet and repel the 
charge. It happened, fortunately for me, fortu 
nately for the cause of truth and justice, that it 
was not the first time that I had offered my 
sentiments on the question now under consid 
eration. There is scarcely a single point in the 
present issue on which I did not explicitly ex 
press my opinion, four years ago, in my place 
here, when the removal of the deposits and 
the questions connected with it were under dis 
cussion so explicitly as to repel effectually the 
charge of any change on my part ; and to make 
it impossible for me to pursue any other course 
than I have without involving myself in gross 
inconsistency. I intend not to leave so impor 
tant a point to rest on my bare assertion. 
What I assert stands on record, which I now 
hold in my possession, and intend, at the prop 
er time, to introduce and read. But, before I 
do that, it will be proper I should state the 
questions now at issue, and my course in rela 
tion to them ; so that, having a clear and dis 
tinct perception of them, you may, senators, 
readily and satisfactorily compare and deter 
mine whether my course on the present occa 
sion coincides with the opinions I then ex 
pressed. 

" There are three questions, as is agreed by 
all, involved in the present issue : Shall we sep 
arate the government from the banks, or shall 
we revive the league of State banks, or create 
a national bank ? My opinion and course in 
reference to each are well known. I prefer the 
separation to either of the others ; and, as be 
tween the other two, I regard a national bank 
as a more efficient, and a less corrupting fiscal 
agent than a league of State banks. It is also 
well known that I have expressed myself on 
the present occasion hostile to the banking sys 
tem, as it exists ; and against the constitutional 
power of making a bank, unless on the assump 
tion that we have the right to receive and treat 
bank-notes as cash in our fiscal operations, 
which I, for the first time, have denied on the 
present occasion. Now, I entertained and ex 
pressed all these opinions, on a different occa 
sion, four years ago, except the right of receiv 
ing bank-notes, in regard to which I then re 
served my opinion ; and if all this should be 
fully and clearly established by the record, from 
speeches delivered and published at the time, 
the charge of the senator must, in the opinion 
of all, however prejudiced, sink to the ground. 
I am now prepared to introduce, and have the 
read. I delivered two speeches in the 



session of 1833-'34, one on the removal of the 
deposits, and the other on the question of th< 
renewal of the charter of the late bank. I ask 
the secretary to turn to the volume lying be 
fore him, and read the three paragraphs marked 
in my speech on the deposits. I will thank 
him to raise his voice, and read slowly, so that 
he may be distinctly heard ; and I must ask you, 
senators, to give your attentive hearing ; for on 
the coincidence between my opinions then and 
my course now, my vindication against this un 
provoked and groundless charge rests. 

" [The secretary of the Senate read as request 
ed.] 

" Such were my sentiments, delivered four 
years since, on the question of the removal of 
the deposits, and now standing on record ; and 
I now call your attention senators, while they 
are fresh in your minds, and before other ex 
tracts are read, to the opinions I then enter 
tained and expressed, in order that you may 
compare them with those that I have express 
ed, and the course I have pursued on the pres 
ent occasion. In the first p^ace, I then ex 
pressed myself explicitly and decidedly against 
the banking system, and intimated, in language 
too strong to be mistaken, that, if the question 
was then bank or no bank, as it now is, as far 
as government is concerned, I would not be 
found on the side of the bank. Now, I ask, I 
appeal to the candor of all, even the most prej 
udiced, is there any thing in all this contradic 
tory to my present opinions or course ? On 
the contrary, having entertained and expressed 
these opinions, could I, at this time, when the 
issue 1 then supposed is actually presented, 
have gone against the separation without gross 
inconsistency ? Again, I then declared myself 
to be utterly opposed to a combination or league 
of State banks, as being the most efficient and 
corrupting fiscal agent the government could 
select, and more objectionable than a bank of 
the United States. I again appeal, is there a 
sentiment or a word in all this contradictory to 
what I have said, or done, on the present occa 
sion ? So far otherwise, is there not a perfect 
harmony and coincidence throughout, which, 
considering the distance of time and the differ 
ence of the occasion, is truly remarkable ; and 
this extending to all the great and governing 
questions now at issue ? 

" To prove all this I again refer to the record. 
If it shall appear from it that my object was to 
disconnect the government gradually and cau 
tiously from the banking system, and with that 
view, and that only, I proposed to use the Bank 
of the United States for a short time, and that I 
explicitly expressed the same opinions then as 
I now have on almost every point connected 
with the system ; I shall not only have vindi 
cated my character from the charge of the sen 
ator from Kentucky, but shall do more, much 
more to show that I did all an individual, 
standing alone, as I did, could do to avert th 



106 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



present calamities : and, of course, I am free 
from all responsibility for what has since hap 
pened. I have shortened the extracts, as far as 
was possible to do justice to myself, and have 
left out much that ought } of right, to be read in 
my defence, rather than to weary the Senate. 
I know how difficult it is to command attention 
to reading of documents ; but I trust that this, 
where justice to a member of the body, whose 
character has been assailed, without the least 
provocation, will form an exception. The ex 
tracts are numbered, and I will thank the sec 
retary to pause at the end of each, unless other 
wise desired. 

" [The secretary read as requested.] 
" But the removal of the deposits was not the 
only question discussed at that remarkable and 
important session. The charter of the United 
States Bank was then about to expire. The 
senator from Massachusetts nearest to me [Mr. 
WEBSTER], then at the head of the committee 
on finance, suggested, in his place, that he 
intended to introduce a bill to renew the 
charter. I clearly perceived that the movement, 
if made, would fail; and that there was no 
prospect of doing any thing to arrest the dan 
ger approaching, unless the subject was taken 
up on the broad question of the currency ; and 
that if any connection of the government with 
the banks could be justified at all, it must be in 
that relation. I am not among those who be 
lieve that the currency was in a sound condition 
when the deposits were removed in 1834. I 
then believed, and experience has proved I was 
correct, that it was deeply and dangerously dis 
eased ; and that the most efficient measures 
were necessary to prevent the catastrophe which 
has since fallen on the circulation of the country. 
There was then not more than one dollar in 
specie, on an average, in the banks, including 
the United States Bank and all, for six of bank 
notes in circulation; and not more than one 
in eleven compared to liabilities of the banks ; 
and this while the United States Bank was in 
full and active operation ; which proves con 
clusively that its charter ought not to be re 
newed, if renewed at all, without great modifica 
tions. I saw also that the expansion of the cir 
culation, great as it then was, must still farther 
increase ; that the disease lay deep in the sys 
tem ; that the terms on which the charter of the 
Bank of England was renewed would give a 
western direction to specie, which, instead of 
correcting the disorder, by substituting specie 
for bank notes in our circulation, would become 
the basis of new banking operations that would 
greatly increase the swelling tide. Such were 
my conceptions then, and I honestly and ear 
nestly endeavored to carry them into effect, in 
order to prevent the approaching catastrophe. 

" The political and personal relations between 
myself and the senator from Massachusetts [Mr, 
WEBSTER], were then not the kindest. We 
tood in opposition at the preceding session on 



:he great question growing out of the conflici 
Between the State I represented and the general 
overnment, which could not pass away with 
out leaving unfriendly feelings on both sides j 
3ut where duty is involved, I am not in the 
labit of permitting my personal relations to in 
terfere. In my solicitude to avoid coming dan 
gers, I sought an interview, through a common 
riend, in order to compare opinions as to the 
proper course to be pursued. We met, and con 
versed freely and fully, but parted without 
agreeing. I expressed to him my deep regret 
at our disagreement, and informed him that, al 
though I could not agree with him, I would 
throw no embarrassment in his way ; but should 
leel it to be my duty, when he made his motion 
to introduce a bill to renew the charter of the 
bank, to express my opinion at large on the 
state of the currency and the proper course to 
be pursued ; which I accordingly did. On that 
memorable occasion I stood almost alone. One 
party supported the league of State banks, and 
the other the United States Bank, the charter 
of which the senator from Massachusetts [Mr. 
WEBSTER,] proposed to renew for six years. 
Nothing was left me but to place myself dis 
tinctly before the country on the ground I occu 
pied, which I did fully and explicitly in the 
speech I delivered on the occasion. In justice 
to myself, I ought to have every word of it read 
on the present occasion. It would of itself be a 
full vindication of my course. I stated and en 
larged on all the points to which I have already 
referred ; objected to the recharter as proposed 
by the mover ; and foretold that what has since 
happened would follow, unless something effec 
tual was done to prevent it. As a remedy, I 
proposed to use the Bank of the United States 
as a temporary expedient, fortified with strong 
guards, in order to resist and turn back the 
swelling tide of circulation. 

"After having so expressed myself, which clear 
ly shows that my object was to use the bank 
for a time in such a manner as to break the 
connection with the system, without a shock to 
the country or currency, I then proceed and ex 
amine the question, whether this could be best 
accomplished by the renewal of the charter oi 
the United States Bank, or through a league of 
State banks. After concluding what I had to 
say on the subject, in my deep solicitude I ad 
dressed the three parties in the Senate sepa 
rately, urging such motives as I thought best 
calculated to act on them ; and pressing them to 
join me in the measure suggested, in order to 
avert approaching danger. I began with my 
friends of the State rights party, and with 
the administration. I have taken copious ex 
tracts from the address to the first, which will 
clearly prove how exactly my opinions then and 
now coincide on all questions connected with 
the banks. I now ask the secretary to read the 
extract numbered two. 

%; [The secretary read accordingly.] 



ANNO 1838. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



107 



" I regret to trespass on the patience of the 
Senate, but I wish, in justice to myself, to ask 
their attention to one more, which, though not 
immediately relating to the question under con 
sideration, is not irrelevant to my vindication. 
I not only expressed my opinions freely in rela 
tion to the currency and the bank, in the speech 
from which such copious extracts have been 
read, but had the precaution to define my 
political position distinctly in reference to the 
political parties of the day, and the course I 
would pursue in relation to each. I then, as 
now, belonged to the party to which it is my 
glory ever to have been attached exclusively ; 
and avowed, explicitly, that I belonged to nei 
ther of the two parties, opposition or adminis 
tration, then contending for superiority ; which 
of itself ought to go far to repel the charge of 
the senator from Kentucky, that I have gone 
over from one party to the other. The secre 
tary will read the last extract. 

"[The secretary read.] 

" Such, senators, are my recorded sentiments 
in 1834. They are full and explicit on all the 
questions involved in the present issue, and 
prove, beyond the possibility of doubt, that I 
have changed no opinion, abandoned no princi 
ple, nor deserted any party. I stand now on 
the ground I stood then, and, of course, if my 
relations to the two opposing parties are 
changed if I now act with those I then op 
posed, and oppose those with whom I then 
acted, the change is not in me. I, at least, have 
stood still. In saying this, I accuse none of 
changing. I leave others to explain their posi 
tion, now and then, if they deem explanation 
necessary. But, if I may be permitted to state 
my opinion, I would say that the change is 
rather in the questions and the circumstances, 
than in the opinions or principles of either of 
the parties. The opposition were then, and are 
now, national bank men, and the administra 
tion, in like manner, were anti-national bank, 
and in favor of a league of State banks ; while I 
preferred then, as now, the former to the latter, 
and a divorce from banks to either. When the 
experiment of the league failed, the administra 
tion were reduced to the option between a 
national bank and a divorce. They chose the 
latter, and such, I have no reason to doubt, 
womd have been their choice, had the option 
been the same four years ago. Nor have I any 
doubt, had the option been then between a 
league of banks and divorce, the opposition 
then, as now, would have been in favor of the 
league. In all this there is more apparent than 
real change. As to myself, there has been 
neither. If I acted with the opposition and 
opposed the administration then, it was because 
I was openly opposed to the removal of the 
deposits and the league of banks, as I now am ; 
and if I now act with the latter and oppose the 
former, it is because I am now, as then, in favor 
af a divorce, and opposed to either a league of 



State banks or a national bank, except, indeed, 
as the means of effecting a divorce gradually 
and safely. What, then, is my offence ? What 
but refusing to abandon my first choice, tha 
divorce from the banks, because the administra 
tion has selected it, and of going with the oppo 
sition for a national bank, to which I have been 
and am still opposed ? That is all ; and for this 
I am charged with going over leaving ono 
party and joining the other. 

" Yet, in the face of all this, the senator has 
not only made the charge, but has said, in his 
place, that he heard, for the first time in his 
life, at the extra session, that I was opposed to 
a national bank ! I could place the senator in 
a dilemma from which there is no possibility 
of escape. I might say to him, you have either 
forgot, or not, what I said in 1834. If you have 
not, how can you justify yourself in making the 
charge you have ? But if you have if you 
have forgot what is so recent, and what, from 
the magnitude of the question and the import 
ance of the occasion, was so well calculated to 
impress itself on your memory, what possible 
value can be attached to your recollection or 
opinions, as to my course on more remote and 
less memorable occasions, on which you have 
undertaken to impeach my conduct ? He may 
take his choice. 

" Having now established by the record that 
I have changed no opinion, abandoned no prin 
ciple, nor deserted any party, the charge of the 
senator, with all the aspersions with which he 
accompanied it, falls prostrate to the earth. 
Here I might leave the subject, and close my 
vindication. But I choose not. I shall follow 
the senator up, step by step, in his unprovoked, 
and I may now add, groundless attack, with 
blows not less decisive and victorious. 

" The senator next proceeded to state, that 
in a certain document (if he named it, I did 
not hear him) I assignee! as the reason why I 
could not join in the attack on the administra 
tion, that the benefit of the victory would not 
enure to myself, or my party ; or, as he ex 
plained himself, because it would not place 
myself and them in power. I presume he re 
ferred to a letter, in answer to an invitation to 
a public dinner, offered me by my old and faith 
ful friends and constituents of Edgefield, in ap 
probation of my course at the extra session. 

[Mr. CLAY. I do.] 

"The pressure of domestic engagements 
would not permit me to accept their invitation j 
and, in declining it, I deemed it due to them 
and myself to explain my course, in its political 
and party bearing, more fully than I had done 
in debate. They had a right to know my rea 
sons, and I expressed myself with the frankness 
due to the long and uninterrupted confidence 
that had ever existed between us. 

" Having made these explanatory remarks, 1 
now proceed to meet the assertion of the sen 
ator. I again take issue on the fact. I assigned 



108 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



no such reason as the senator attributes to me. 
I never dreamed nor thought of such a one ; nor 
can any force of construction extort such from 
what I said. No ; my object was not power or 
place, either for myself or party. I was far 
more humble and honest. It was to save our 
selves and our principles from being absorbed 
and lost in a party, more numerous and power 
ful ; but differing from us on almost every prin 
ciple and question of policy. 

" When the suspension of specie payments 
took place in May last (not unexpected to me), 
I immediately turned my attention to the event 
earnestly, considering it as an event pregnant 
with great and lasting consequences. Review 
ing the whole ground, I saw nothing to change 
in the opinions and principles I had avowed in 
1834 ; and I determined to carry them out, as 
far as circumstances and my ability would ena 
ble me. But I saw that my course must be 
influenced by the position which the two great 
contending parties might take in reference to 
the question. I did not doubt that the opposi 
tion would rally either on a national bank, or 
a combination of State banks, with Mr. Biddle's 
at the head ; but I was wholly uncertain what 
course the administration would adopt, and re 
mained so until the message of the President 
was received and read by the secretary at his 
table. When I saw he went for a divorce, I 
never hesitated a moment. Not only my opin 
ions and principles long entertained, and, as I 
have shown, fully expressed years ago, but the 
highest political motives, left me no alternative. 
I perceived at once that the object, to accom 
plish which we had acted in concert with the 
opposition, had ceased: Executive usurpations 
had come to an end for the present : and that 
the struggle with the administration was no 
longer for power, but to save themselves. I 
also clearly saw, that if we should unite with 
the opposition in their attack on the adminis 
tration, the victory over them, in the position 
they occupied, would be a victory over us and 
our principles. It required no sagacity to see 
that such would be the result. It was as plain 
as day. The administration had taken position, 
as I have shown, on the very ground I occupied 
in 1834; and which the whole State rights 
party had taken at the same time in the other 
House, as its journals will prove. The opposi 
tion, under the banner of the bank, were moving 
against them for the very reason that they had 
taken the ground they did. 

" Now, I ask, what would have been the re 
sult if we had joined in the attack ? No one 
can now doubt that the victory over those in 
power would have been certain and decisive, 
nor would the consequences have been the 
least doubtful. The first fruit would have been 
a national bank. The principles of the opposi 
tion, and the very object of the attack, would 
have necessarily led to that. We would have 
aeen not only too feeble to resist^ but would 



have been committed by joining in the attack 
with its avowed object to go for one, while 
those who support the administration would 
have been scattered in the winds. We should 
then have had a bank that is clear ; nor is : t 
less certain, that in its train there would hare 
followed all the consequences which have and 
ever will follow, when tried high duties, over 
flowing revenue, extravagant expenditures, large 
surpluses ; in a word, all those disastrous con 
sequences which have well near overthrown 
our institutions, and involved the country in 
its present difficulties. The influence of the 
institution, the known principles and policy of 
the opposition, and the utter prostration of the 
administration party, and the absorption of 
ours, would have led to these results as cer 
tainly as we exist. 

" I now appeal, senators, to your candor and 
justice, and ask, could I, having all these conse 
quences before me, with my known opinions and 
that of the party to which I belong, and to which 
only I owe fidelity, have acted differently from 
what I did ? Would not any other course have 
justly exposed me to the charge of having aban 
doned my principles and party, with which I am 
now accused so unjustly ? Nay, would it not 
have been worse than folly been madness in 
me, to have taken any other ? And yet, the 
grounds which I have assumed in this exposi 
tion are the very reasons assigned in my letter, 
and which the senator has perverted most un 
fairly and unjustly into the pitiful, personal, and 
selfish reason, which he has attributed to me. 
Confirmative of what I say, I again appeal to 
the record. The secretary will read the para 
graph marked in my Edgefield letter, to which, 
I presume, the senator alluded. 

" [The secretary of the Senate reads :] 
" ' As soon as I saw this state of things, 1 clearly 
perceived that a very important question was 
presented for our determination, which we were 
compelled to decide forthwith shall we con 
tinue our joint attack with the Nationals on 
those in power, in the new position which they 
have been compelled to occupy ? It was clear, 
with our joint forces, we could utterly over 
throw and demolish them ; but it was not less 
clear that the victory would enure, not to us, 
but exclusively to the benefit of our allies and 
their cause. They were the most numerous and 
powerful, and the point of assault on the posi 
tion which the party to be assaulted had taken 
in relation to the banks, would have greatly 
strengthened the settled principles and policy 
of the National party, and weakened, in the 
same degree, ours. They are, and ever have 
been, the decided advocates of a national bank ; 
and are now in favor of one with a capital so 
ample as to be sufficient to control the State in 
stitutions, and to regulate the currency and ex 
changes of the country. To join them with 
their avowed object in the attack to overthrow 
those in power, on the ground they occupied 



ANNO 1838. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



109 



against a bank, would, of course, not only have 
placed the government and country in their 
hands without opposition, but would have com 
mitted us, beyond the possibility of extrication, 
for a bank ; and absorbed our party in the ranks 
of the National Republicans. The first fruits 
of the victory would have been an overshadow 
ing National Bank, with an immense capital, 
not less than from fifty to a hundred millions ; 
which would have centralized the currency and 
exchanges, and with them the commerce and 
capital of the country, in whatever section the 
head of the institution might be placed. The 
next would be the indissoluble union of the 
political opponents, whose principles and policy 
are so opposite to ours, and so dangerous to our 
institutions, as well as oppressive to us.' 

" I now ask, is there any thing in this extract 
which will warrant the construction that the 
senator has attempted to force on it ? Is it not 
manifest that the expression on which he fixes, 
that the victory would enure, not to us, but 
exclusively to the benefit of the opposition, 
alludes not to power or place, but to principle 
and policy ? Can words be more plain ? What 
then becomes of all the aspersions of the sena 
tor, his reflections about selfishness and the 
want of patriotism, and his allusions and illus 
trations to give them force and effect ? They 
fall to the ground without deserving a notice, 
with his groundless accusation. 

" But, in so premeditated and indiscriminate 
an attack, it could not be expected that my mo 
tives would entirely escape ; and we accordingly 
find the senator very charitably leaving it to 
time to disclose my motive for going over. 
Leave it to time to disclose my motive for going 
over ! I who have changed no opinion, aban 
doned no principle, and deserted no party : I, 
who have stood still, and maintained my ground 
against every difficulty, to be told that it is left 
to time to disclose my motive ! The imputation ( 
sinks to the earth with the ground-ess charge \ 
on which it rests. I stamp it with scorn in the 
dust. I pick up the dart, which fell harmless 
at my feet. I hurl it back. What the senator 
charges on me unjustly, he has actually done. 
He went over on a memorable occasion, and did 
not leave it to time to disclose his motive. 

" The senator next tells us that I bore a char 
acter for stern fidelity j which he accompanied 
with remarks implying that I had forfeited it 
by my course on the present occasion. If he 
means by stern fidelity a devoted attachment to 
duty and principle, which nothing can overcome, 
the character is, indeed, a high one ; and I trust, 
not entirely unmerited. I have, at least, the 
authority of the senator himself for saying that 
it belonged to me before the present occasion, 
and it is, of course, incumbent on him to show 
that I have since forfeited it He will find the 
task a Herculean one. It would be by far more 
sasy to show the opposite ; that, instead of for 
feiting, I have strengthened my title to the chw- 



acter ; instead of abandoning any principles, 1 
have firmly adhered to them ; and that too, undei 
the most appalling difficulties. If I were to 
select an instance in the whole course of my 
life on which, above all others, to rest my claim 
to the character which the senator attributed 
to me, it would be this very one. which ho has 
selected to prove that I have forfeited it. 

" I acted with the full knowledge of the diffi 
culties I had to encounter, and the responsibil 
ity I must incur. I saw a great and powerful 
party, probably the most powerful in the coun 
try, eagerly seizing on the catastrophe which 
had befallen the currency, and the consequent 
embarrassments that followed, to displace those 
in power, against whom they had been long 
contending. I saw that, to stand between them 
and their object, I must necessarily incur their 
deep and lasting displeasure. I also saw that, 
to maintain the administration in the position 
they had taken to separate the government 
from the banks, I would draw down on me, 
with the exception of some of the southern 
banks, the whole weight of that extensive, con 
centrated, and powerful interest the most pow 
erful by far of any in the whole community ; 
and thus I would unite against me a combina 
tion of political and moneyed influence almost 
irresistible. Nor was this all. I could not but 
see that, however pure and disinterested my 
motives, and however consistent my course 
with all I had ever said or done, I would be ex 
posed to the very charges and aspersions which 
I am now repelling. The ease with which they 
could be made, and the temptation to make 
them, I saw were too great to be resisted by 
the party moralit} r of the day as groundless as 
I have demonstrated them. But there was 
another consequence that I could not but fore 
see, far more painful to me than all others. I 
but too clearly saw that, in so sudden and com 
plex a juncture, called on as I was to decide on 
my course instantly, as it were, on the field of 
battle, without consultation, or explaining my 
reasons, I would estrange for a time many of 
my political friends, who had passed through 
with me so many trials and difficulties, and for 
whom I feel a brother's love. But I saw before 
me the path of duty, and, though rugged, and 
hedged on all sides with these and many other 
difficulties, I did not hesitate a moment to take 
it. After I had made up my mind as to my 
course, in a conversation with a friend about 
the responsibility I would assume, he remarked 
that my own State might desert me. I replied 
that it was not impossible ; but the result has 
proved that I under-estimated the intelligence 
and patriotism of my virtuous and noble State. 
I ask her pardon for the distrust implied in my 
answer; but I ask with assurance it will be 
granted, on the grounds I shall put it that, in 
being prepared to sacrifice her confidence, as 
dear to me as light and life, rather than disobey 
o" this great ouestion, the dictates of my judg 



110 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



ment and conscience, I proved myself worthy 
of being her representative. 

"But if the senator, in attributing to me 
stern fidelity, meant, not devotion to principle, 
but to party, and especially the party of which 
he is so prominent a member, my answer is, 
that I never belonged to his party, nor owed it 
any fidelity; and, of course, could forfeit, in 
reference to it, no character for fidelity. It is 
true, we acted in concert against what we be 
lieved to be the usurpations of the Executive 
and it is true that, during the time, I saw much 
to esteem in those with whom I acted, and con 
tracted friendly relations with many ; which I 
shall not be the first to forget. It is also true 
that a common party designation was applied 
to the opposition in the aggregate not, how 
ever, with my approbation ; but it is no less 
true that it was universally known that it con 
sisted of two distinct parties, dissimilar in prin 
ciple and policy, except in relation to the object 
for which they had united : the national repub- 
can party, and the portion of the State rights 
party which had separated from the administra 
tion, on the ground that it had departed from 
the true principles of the original party. That 
I belonged exclusively to that detached portion, 
and to neither the opposition nor administration 
party, I prove by my explicit declaration, con 
tained in one of the extracts read from my 
speech on the currency in 1834. That the 
party generally, and the State which I repre 
sent in part, stood aloof from both of the par- 
tics, may be established from the fact that they 
refused to mingle in the party and political con 
tests of the day. My State withheld her elec 
toral vote in two successive presidential elections ; 
and, rather than to bestow it on either the sen 
ator from Kentucky, or the distinguished citizen 
whom he opposed, in the first of those elec 
tions, she threw her vote on a patriotic citizen 
of Virginia, since deceased, of her own politics ; 
but who was not a candidate ; and, in the last, 
she refused to give it to the worthy senator 
from Tennessee near me (Judge WHITE), though 
his principles and views of policy approach so 
much nearer to hers than that of the party to 
which the senator from Kentucky belongs. 

" And here, Mr. President, I avail myself of 
the opportunity to declare my present political 
position, so that there may be no mistake here 
after. I belong to the old Republican State 
Rights party of '98. To that, and that alone, I 
owe fidelity, and by that I shall stand through 
every change, and in spite of every difficulty. 
Its creed is to be found in the Kentucky reso 
lutions, and Virginia resolutions and report ; 
and its policy is to confine the action of this 
government within the narrowest limits com 
patible with the peace and security of these 
States, and the objects for which the Union 
was expressly formed. I, as one of that party, 
shall support all who support its principles and 
policy, and oppose all who oppose them. I 



have given, and shall continue to give, the ad 
ministration a hearty and sincere support on 
the great question now under discussion, be 
cause I regard it as in strict conformity to our 
creed and policy ; and shall do every thing in 
my power to sustain them under the great re 
sponsibility which they have assumed. But 
let me tell those who are more interested in 
sustaining them than myself, that the danger 
which threatens them lies not here, but in 
another quarter. This measure will tend to 
uphold them, if they stand fast, and adhere to 
it with fidelity. But, if they wish to know 
where the danger is, let them look to the fiscal 
department of the government. I said, years 
ago, that we were committing an error the re 
verse of the great and dangerous one that was 
committed in 1828, and to which we owe our 
present difficulties, and all we have since expe 
rienced. Then we raised the revenue greatly, 
when the expenditures were about to be re 
duced by the discharge of the public debt ; and 
now we have doubled the disbursements, when 
the revenue is rapidly decreasing; an error, 
which, although probably not so fatal to the 
country, will prove, if immediate and vigorous 
measures be not adopted, far more so to those 
in power. 

" But the senator did not confine his attack 
to my conduct and motives in reference to the 
present question. In his eagerness to weaken 
the cause I support, by destroying confidence in 
me, he made an indiscriminate attack on my in 
tellectual faculties, which he characterized as 
metaphysical, eccentric, too much of genius, and 
too little common sense ; and of course wanting 
a sound and practical judgment. 

"Mr. President, according to my opinion, 
there is nothing of which those who are en 
dowed with superior mental faculties ought to 
be more cautious, than to reproach those with 
their deficiency to whom Providence has been 
less liberal. The faculties of our mind are the 
immediate gift of our Creator, for which we are 
no farther responsible than for their proper cul 
tivation, according to our opportunities, and 
their proper application to control and regulate 
our actions. Thus thinking, I trust I shall be 
the last to assume superiority on my part, or 
reproach any one with inferiority on his ; but 
those who do not regard the rule, when ap 
plied to others, cannot expect it to be observed 
when applied to themselves. The critic must 
expect to be criticised ; and he who points out 
the faults of others, to have his own pointed 
out. 

" I cannot retort on the senator the charge of 
being metaphysical. I cannot accuse him of 
possessing the powers of analysis and generali 
zation, those higher faculties of the mind (called 
metaphysical by those who do not possess 
them), which decompose and resolve into their 
elements the complex masses of ideas that exist 
in the world of mind as chemistry does the 



ANNO 1838. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



Ill 



bodies that surround us in the material world ; 
and without which those deep and hidden 
causes which are in constant action, and pro 
ducing such mighty changes in the condition 
of society, would operate unseen and undetect- , 
ed. The absence of these higher qualities of 
the mind is conspicuous throughout the whole 
course of the senator's public life. To this it 
may be traced that he prefers the specious to 
the solid, and the plausible to the true. To 
the same cause, combined with an ardent tem 
perament, it is owing that we ever find him 
mounted on some popular and favorite measure, 
which he whips along, cheered by the shouts of 
the multitude, and never dismounts till he has 
rode it down. Thus, at one time, we find him 
mounted on the protective system, which he 
rode down; at another, on internal improve 
ment ; and now he is mounted on a bank, which 
will surely share the same fate, unless those 
who are immediately interested shall stop him 
in his headlong career. It is the fault of his 
mind to seize on a few prominent and striking 
advantages, and to pursue them eagerly with 
out looking to consequences. Thus, in the case 
of the protective system, he was struck with 
the advantages of manufactures ; and, believing 
that high duties was the proper mode of pro 
tecting them, he pushed forward the system, 
without seeing that he was enriching one por 
tion of the country at the expense of the other ; 
corrupting the one and alienating the other ; 
and, finally, dividing the community into two 
great hostile interests, which terminated in the 
overthrow of the system itself. So, now, he 
looks only to a uniform currency, and a bank 
as the means of securing it, without once re 
flecting how far the banking system has pro 
gressed, and the difficulties that impede its far 
ther progress ; that banking and politics are 
running together to their mutual destruction ; 
and that the only possible mode of saving his 
favorite system is to separate it from the gov 
ernment. 

" To the defects of understanding, which the 
senator attributes to me, I make no reply. It 
is for others, and not me, to determine the por 
tion of understanding which it has pleased the 
Author of my being to bestow on me. It is, 
however, fortunate for me, that the standard by 
which I shall be judged is not the false, preju 
diced, and, as I have shown, unfounded opinion 
which the senator has expressed ; but my acts. 
They furnish materials, neither few nor scant, 
to form a just estimate of my mental facul 
ties. I have now been more than twenty-six 
years continuously in the service of this gov 
ernment, in various stations, and have taken 
part in almost all the great questions which 
have agitated this country during this long and 
important period. Throughout the whole I 
have never followed events, but have taken my 
stand in advance, openly and freely avowing my 
opinions on all questions, and leaving it to time 



and experience to condemn or approve my 
course. Thus acting, I have often, and on great 
questions, separated from those with whom I 
usually acted, and if I am really so defective in 
sound and practical judgment as the senator 
represents, the proof, if to be found any where, 
must be found in such instances, or where I 
have acted on my sole responsibility. Now, I 
ask, in which of the many instances of the kind 
is such proof to be found ? It is not my inten 
tion to call to the recollection of the Senate all 
such ; but that you, senators, may judge for 
yourselves, it is due in justice to myself, that I 
should suggest a few of the most prominent, 
which at the time were regarded as the senator 
now considers the present ; and then, as now. 
because where duty is involved, I would not 
submit to party trammels. 

" I go back to the commencement of my pub 
lic life, the war session, as it was usually called, 
of 1812, when I first took my seat in the other 
House, a young man, without experience to 
guide me, and I shall select, as the first instance, 
the Navy. At that time the administration and 
the party to which I was strongly attached were 
decidedly opposed to this important arm of ser 
vice. It was considered anti-republican to sup 
port it ; but acting with my then distinguished 
colleague, Mr. Cheves, who led the way, I did 
not hesitate to give it my hearty support, re 
gardless of party ties. Does this instance sus 
tain the charge of the senator ? 

" The next I shall select is the restrictive 
system of that day, the embargo, the non-im 
portation and non-intercourse acts. This, too, 
was a party measure which had been long and 
warmly contested, and of course the lines of 
party well drawn. Young and inexperienced as 
I was, I saw its defects, and resolutely opposed 
it, almost alone of my party. The second or 
third speech I made, after I took my seat, was 
in open denunciation of the system ; and I may 
refer to the grounds I then assumed, the truth 
of which have been confirmed by time and ex 
perience, with pride and confidence. This will 
scarcely be selected by the senator to make good 
his charge. 

" I pass over other instances, and come to 
Mr. Dallas's bank of 1814-15. ' That, too, was 
a party measure. Banking was then compar 
atively but little understood, and it may seem 
astonishing, at this time, that such a project 
should ever have received any countenance 
or support. It proposed to create a bank of 
$50,000,000, to consist almost entirely of what 
was called then the war stocks ; that is, the pub 
lic debt created in carrying on the then war. It 
was provided that the bank should not pay 
specie during the war, and for three years after 
its termination, for carrying on which it was to 
lend the government the funds. In plain lan 
guage, the government was to borrow back its 
own credit from the bank, and pay to the insti 
tution six per cent, for its use. I had scarcely 



112 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



ever before seriously thought of banks or bank 
ing, but I clearly saw through the operation, 
and the danger to the government and country ; 
and, regardless of party ties or denunciations, I 
opposed and defeated it in the manner I ex 
plained at the extra session. I then subjected 
myself to the very charge which the senator 
f now makes ; but time has done me justice, as it 
will in the present instance. 

"Passing the intervening instances, I come 
down to my administration of the War Depart 
ment, where I acted on my own judgment and 
responsibility. It is known to all, that the de 
partment, at that time, was perfectly disorgan 
ized, with not much less than $50,000,000 of 
outstanding and unsettled accounts ; and the 
greatest confusion in every branch of service. 
Though without experience, I prepared, shortly 
alter I went in, the bill for its organization, and 
on its passage I drew up the body of rules for 
carrying the act into execution ; both of which re 
main substantially unchanged to this day. After 
reducing the outstanding accounts to a few mil 
lions, and introducing order and accountability in 
every branch of service, and bi inging down the 
expenditure of the army from four to two and a 
half millions annually, without subtracting a 
single comfort from either officer or soldier, I 
left the department in a condition that might 
well be compared to the best in any country. 
If I am deficient in the qualities which the sena 
tor attributes to me, here in this mass of details 
and business it ought to be discovered. Will 
he look to this to make good his charge ? 

Ct From the war department I was transferred 
to the Chair which you now occupy. How I 
acquitted myself in the discharge of its duties, I 
leave it to the body to decide, without adding a 
word. The station, from its leisure, gave me a 
good opportunity to study the genius of the 
prominent measure of the day, called then the 
American system ; of which I profited. I soon 
perceived where its errors lay, and how it would 
operate. I clearly saw its desolating effects in 
one section, and corrupting influence in the 
other ; and when I saw that it could not be ar 
rested here, I fell back on my own State, and a 
blow was given to a system destined to destroy 
our institutions, if not overthrown, which 
brought it to the ground. This brings me 
down to the present times, and where passions 
and prejudices are yet too strong to make an 
appeal, with any prospect of a fair and impartial 
verdict. I then transfer this, and all my subse 
quent acts, including the present, to the tribunal 
of posterity ; with a perfect confidence that 
nothing will be found, in what I have said or 
done, to impeach my integrity or understand 
ing. 

"I have now, senators, repelled the attacks 
on me. I have settled the account and cancel 
led the debt between me and my accuser. I 
have not sought this controversy, nor have I 
shunned it when forced on me. I have acted on 



the defensive, and if it is to continue, which 
rests with the senator, I shall throughout con 
tinue so to act. I know too well the advantage 
of my position to surrender it. The senator 
commenced the controversy, and it is but right 
that he should be responsible for the direction 
it shall hereafter take. Be his determination 
what it may, I stand prepared to meet him." 



CHAPTER XXVIII. 

DEBATE BETWEEN ME. CLAY AND ME. CALHOUN 
EEJOINDEES BY EACH. 

MR. CLAY: "As to the personal part of the 
speech of the senator from South Carolina, I 
must take the occasion to say that no man is 
more sincerely anxious to avoid all personal con 
troversy than myself. And I may confidently 
appeal to the whole course of my life for the 
confirmation of that disposition. No man cher 
ishes less than I do feelings of resentment; 
none forgets or forgives an injury sooner than 
I do. The duty which I had to perform in 
animadverting upon the public conduct and 
course of the senator from South Carolina was 
painful in the extreme ; but it was, nevertheless, 
a public duty ; and I shrink from the performance 
of no duty required at my hands by my country. 
It was painful, because I had long served in the 
public councils with the senator from South 
Carolina, admired his genius, and for a great 
while had been upon terms of intimacy with 
him. Throughout my whole acquaintance with 
him, I have constantly struggled to think well 
of him, and to ascribe to him public virtues. 
Even after his famous summerset at the extra 
session, on more than one occasion I defended 
his motives when he was assailed ; and insisted 
that it was uncharitable to attribute to him 
others than those which he himself avowed. 
This I continued to do, until I read this most 
extraordinary and exceptionable letter : [Here 
Mr. Clay held up and exhibited to the Senate 
the Edgefield letter, dated at Fort Hill, Novem 
ber 3, 1837 :] a letter of which I cannot speak 
in merited terms, without a departure from the 
respect which I owe to the Senate and to myself 
When I read that letter, sir, its unblushing 
avowals, and its unjust reproaches cast upon my 
friends and myself, I was most reluctantly com 
pelled to change my opinion of the honorable 
senator from South Carolina. One so distin 
guished as he is, cannot expect to be indulged 
with speaking as he pleases of others, without 
a reciprocal privilege. He cannot suppose that 
he may set to the right or the left, cut in and 
out, and chasse, among principles and parties 
as often as he pleases, without animadversion. 
I did, indeed, understand the senator to say, in 



ANNO 1838. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



113 



his former speech, that we, the whigs, were un 
wise and unpatriotic in not uniting with him 
in supporting the bill under consideration. But 
in that Edgefield letter, among the motives 
which he assigns for leaving us, I understand 
him to declare that he could not ' back and sus 
tain those in such opposition, in whose wisdom, 
firmness, and patriotism, I have no reason to 
confide.' 

" After having written and published to the 
world such a letter as that, and after what has 
fallen from the senator, in the progress of this 
debate, towards my political friends, does he 
imagine that he can persuade himself and the 
country that he really occupies, on this occa 
sion, a defensive attitude? In that letter he 
says : 

" ' I clearly saw that our bold and vigorous attacks had mado 
a deep and wsuccessful impression. State interposition had 
overthrown the protective tariff, and with it the American 
system, and put a stop to the congressional usurpation ; and 
the joint attacks of our party, and that of our old opponents, 
the national republicans, had effectually brought down the 
power of the Executive, and arrested its encroachments for 
the present. It was for that purpose we had united. True 
to our principle of opposition to the encroachment of power, 
from whatever quarter it might come, we did not hesitate, 
after overthrowing the protective system, and arresting legis 
lative usurpation, to join the authors of that system, in order 
to arrest the encroachments of the Executive, although we 
differed as widely as the poles on almost every other question, 
and regarded the usurpation of the Executive but as a neces 
sary consequence of the principles aud policy of our new- 
allies.' 

" State interposition ! that is as I understand 
the senator from South Carolina ; nullification, 
he asserts, overthrew the protective tariff and 
the American system. And can that senator, 
knowing what he knows, 'and what I know, 
deliberately make such an assertion here? I 
had heard similar boasts before, but did not 
regard them, until I saw them coupled in this 
letter with the imputation of a purpose on the 
part of my friends to disregard the compromise, 
and revive the high tariff. Nullification, Mr. 
President, overthrew the protective policy ! 
No, sir. The compromise was not extorted by 
the terror of nullification. Among other more 
important motives that influenced its passage, 
it was a compassionate concession to the impru 
dence and impotency of nullification ! The dan 
ger from nullification itself excited no more ap 
prehension than would be felt by seeing a regi 
ment of a thousand boys, of five or six years of 
age, decorated in brilliant uniforms, with their 
gaudy plumes and tiny muskets, marching up 
to assault a corps of 50,000 grenadiers, six feet 
high. At the commencement of the session of 
1832, the senator from South Carolina was in 
any condition other than that of dictating terms. 
Those of us who were then here must recollect 
well his haggard looks and his anxious and de 
pressed countenance. A highly estimable friend 
of mine, Mr. J. M. Clayton, of Delaware, allud 
ing to the possibility of a rupture with' South 
Carolina, and declarations of President Jackson 
vith respect to certain distinguished individuals 
VOL. II. 8 



whom he had denounced and proscribed, said 
to me, on more than one occasion, referring to 
the senator from South Carolina and some of 
his colleagues, " They are clever fellows, and it 
will never do to let old Jackson hang them." 
Sir, this disclosure is extorted from me by the 
senator. 

" So far from nullification having overthrown 
the protective policy, in assenting to the com 
promise, it expressly sanctioned the constitu 
tional power which it had so strongly contro 
verted, and perpetuated it. There is protection 
from one end to the other in the compromise 
act ; modified and limited it is true, but protec 
tion nevertheless. There is protection, adequate 
and abundant protection, until the year 1842 ; 
and protection indefinitely beyond it. Until 
that year, the biennial reduction of duties is 
slow and moderate, such as was perfectly satis 
factory to the manufacturers. Now, if the sys 
tem were altogether unconstitutional, as had 
been contended, how could the senator vote for 
a bill which continued it for nine years ? Then, 
beyond that period, there is the provision for 
cash duties, home valuations, a long and liberal 
list of free articles, carefully made out by my 
friend from Rhode Island (Mr. KNIGHT), ex 
pressly for the benefit of the manufacturers ; and 
the power of discrimination, reserved also for 
their benefit ; within the maximum rate of duty 
fixed in the act. In the consultations between 
the senator and myself in respect to the com 
promise act, on every point upon which I in 
sisted he gave wr Tr . He was for a shorter term 
than nine years, and more rapid reduction. I 
insisted, and he yielded. He was for fifteen in 
stead of twenty per cent, as the maximum duty ; 
but yielded. He was against any discrimination 
within the limited range of duties for the benefit 
of the manufacturers ; but consented. To the 
last he protested against home valuation, but 
finally gave way. Such is the compromise act ; 
and the Senate will see with what propriety the 
senator can assert that nullification had over 
thrown the protective tariff and the American 
system. Nullification ! which asserted the ex 
traordinary principle that one of twenty-four 
members of a confederacy, by its separate action, 
could subvert and set aside the expressed will 
of the wfiole ! Nullification ! a strange, imprac 
ticable, incomprehensible doctrine, that partakes 
of the character of the metaphysical school 01 
German philosophy, or would be worthy of the 
puzzling theological controversies of the middle 
ages. 

" No one, Mr. President, in the commence 
ment of the protective policy, ever supposed 
that it was to be perpetual. We hoped and be 
lieved that temporary protection extended to 
our infant manufactures, would bring them up, 
and enable them to withstand competition with 
those of Europe. We thought, as the wise 
French minister did, who, when urged by a 
British minister to consent to the equal intro- 



114 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



duction into the two countries of their respective 
productions, replied that free trade might be 
very well for a country whose manufactures 
had reached perfection, but was not entirely 
adapted to a country which wished to build up 
its manufactures. If the protective policy were 
entirely to cease in 1842, it would have existed 
twenty-six years from 1816, or 18 from 1824 ; 
quite as long as, at either of those periods, its 
friends supposed might be necessary. But it 
does not cease then, and I sincerely hope that 
the provisions contained in the compromise act 
for its benefit beyond that period, will be found 
sufficient for the preservation of all our interest 
ing manufactures. For one, I am willing to ad 
here to, and abide by the compromise in all its 
provisions, present and prospective, if its fair 
operation is undisturbed. The Senate well 
knows that I have been constantly in favor of a 
strict and faithful adherence to the compromise 
act. I have watched and defended it on all 
occasions. I desire to see it faithfully and in 
violably maintained. The senator, too, from 
South Carolina, alleging that the South were 
the weaker party, has hitherto united with me 
in sustaining it. Nevertheless, he has left us, 
as he tells us in his Edgefield letter, because he 
apprehended that our principles would lead us 
to the revival of a high tariff. 

" The senator from South Carolina proceeds, 
in his Edgefield letter, to say : 

"'I clearly perceived that a very important, question was 
presented for our determination, which we were compelled 
to decide forthwith : shall we continue our joint attack with 
the nationals on those in power, in the new position which 
they have been compelled to occupy ? It was clear that, with 
our joint forces, we could utterly overthrow and demolish 
them. But it was not less clear that the victory would 
enure not to us, but exclusively to the benefit of our allies 
and their cause.' 

" Thus it appears that in a common struggle 
for the benefit of our whole country, the sena 
tor was calculating upon the party advantages 
which would result from success. He quit us 
because he apprehended that he and his party 
would be absorbed by us. Well, what is to be 
their fate in his new alliance ? Is there no 
absorption there? Is there no danger that the 
senator and his party will be absorbed by the 
administration party ? Or does he hope to ab 
sorb that'? Another motive avowed in the 
letter, for his desertion of us, is, that ' it would 
also give us the chance of effecting what is still 
more important to us, the union of the entire 
South.' What sort of an union of the South 
does the senator wish? Is not the South 
already united as a part of the common con 
federacy ? Does he want any other union of it ? 
I wish he would explicitly state. I should be 
glad, also, if he would define what he means by 
the South. He sometimes talks of the planta 
tion or staple States. Maryland is partly a 
staple State. Virginia and North Carolina 
more so. And Kentucky and Tennessee have 
also staple productions. Are all these States 



parts of his South ? I fear, Mr. President, thai 
the political geography of the senator compre 
hends a much larger South than that South 
which is the object of his particular solicitude ; 
and that, to find the latter, we should have to 
go to South Carolina; and, upon our arrival 
there, trace him to Fort Hill. This is the dis 
interested senator from South Carolina! 

" But he has left no party, and joined no 
party ! No ! None. With the daily evidences 
before us of his frequent association, counselling 
and acting with the other party, he would tax 
our credulity too much to require us to believe 
that he has formed no connection with it. He 
may stand upon his reserved rights ; but they 
must be mentally reserved, for they are not ob 
vious to the senses. Abandoned no party ? 
Why this letter proclaims his having quitted us, 
and assigns his reasons for doing it; one of 
which is, that we are in favor of that national 
bank which the senator himself has sustained 
about twenty-four years of the twenty-seven 
that he has been in public life. Whatever im 
pression the senator may endeavor to make 
without the Senate upon the country at large, 
no man within the Senate, who has eyes to see, 
or ears to hear, can mistake his present position 
and party connection. If, in the speech which 
I addressed to the Senate on a former day, 
there had been a single fact stated which was 
not perfectly true, or an inference drawn which 
was not fully warranted, or any description of 
his situation which was incorrect, no man would 
enjoy greater pleasure than I should do in recti 
fying the error. If, in the picture which I por 
trayed of the senator and his course, there be 
any thing which can justly give him dissatisfac 
tion, he must look to the original and not to the 
painter. The conduct of an eminent public man 
is a fair subject for exposure and animadversion. 
When I addressed the Senate before, I had just 
perused this letter. I recollected all its re 
proaches and imputations against us, and those 
which were made or implied in the speech of 
the honorable senator were also fresh in my 
memory. Does he expect to be allowed to cast 
such imputations, and make such reproaches 
against others without retaliation? Holding 
myself amenable for my public conduct, I choose 
to animadvert upon his, and upon that of others, 
whenever circumstances, in my judgment, ren 
der it necessary ; and I do it under all just re 
sponsibility which belongs to the exercise of 
such a privilege. 

" The senator has thought proper to exercise 
a corresponding privilege towards myself; and, 
without being very specific, has taken upon 
himself to impute to me the charge of going 
over upon some occasion, and that in a manner 
which left my motive no matter of conjecture. 
If the senator mean to allude to the stale and 
refuted calumny of George Kremer, I assure 
him I can hear it without the slightest emo 
tion j and if he can find any fragment of that 



ANNO 1838. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT 



115 



rent banner to cover his own aberrations, 
he is perfectly at liberty to enjoy all the shelter 
which it affords. In my case there was no 
going over about it ; I was a member of the 
House of Representatives, and had to give a vote 
for one of three candidates for the presidency. 
Mr. Crawford's unfortunate physical condition 
placed him out of the question. The choice was, 
therefore, limited to the venerable gentleman 
from Massachusetts, or to the distinguished in 
habitant of the hermitage. I could give but one 
vote ; and. accordingly, as I stated on a former 
occasion, I gave the vote which, before I left 
Kentucky, I communicated to my colleague 
[Mr. CRITTENDEN], it was my intention to give 
in the contingency which happened. I have 
aever for one moment regretted the vote I then 
gave. It is true, that the legislature of Ken 
tucky had requested the representatives from 
that State to vote for General Jackson ; but my 
own immediate constituents, I knew well, were 
opposed to his election, and it was their will, 
and not that of the legislature, according to 
every principle applicable to the doctrine of in 
structions, which I was to deposit in the ballot- 
box. It is their glory and my own never to 
have concurred in the elevation of General 
Jackson. They ratified and confirmed my vote, 
and every representative that they have sent to 
Congress since, including my friend, the present 
member, has concurred with me in opposition 
to the election and administration of General 
Jackson. 

" If my information be not entirely incorrect, 
and there was any going over in the presiden 
tial election which terminated in February, 
1825, the senator from South Carolina and not 
I we nt over. I have understood that the 
senator, when he ceased to be in favor of him 
self, that is, after the memorable movement 
made in Philadelphia by the present minister to 
Russia (Mr. DALLAS), withdrawing his name from 
the canvass, was the known supporter of the elec 
tion of Mr. Adams. What motives induced him 
afterwards to unite in the election of General 
Jackson, I know not. It is not my habit to 
impute to others uncharitable motives, and I 
leave the senator to settle that account with his 
own conscience and his country. No, sir, I 
have no reproaches to make myself, and feel 
perfectly invulnerable to any attack from others, 
on account of any part which I took in the elec 
tion of 1825. And I look back with entire and 
conscious satisfaction upon the whole course of 
the arduous administration which ensued. 

" The senator from South Carolina thinks it 
to be my misfortune to be always riding some 
hobby, and that I stick to it till I ride it down. 
I think it is his never to stick to one long 
enough. He is like a courier who, riding from 
post to post, with relays of fresh horses, when 
he changes his steed, seems to forget altogether 
the last which he had mounted. Now, it is a 
part of my pride and pleasure to say, that I 



never in my life changed my deliberate opinion 
upon any great question of national policy but 
once, and that was twenty-two years ago, on 
the question of the power to establish a bank 
of the United States. The change was wrought 
by the sad and disastrous experience of the 
want of such an institution, growing out of the 
calamities of war. It was a change which I 
made in common with Mr. Madison, two gov 
ernors of Virginia, and the great body of the 
republican party, to which I have ever be 
longed. 

" The distinguished senator sticks long to no 
hc/sby. He was once gayly mounted on that 
of internal improvements. We rode that double 
the senator before, and I behind him. He 
quietly slipped off, leaving me to hold the bridle. 
He introduced and carried through Congress in 
1816, the bill setting apart the large bonus of 
the Bank of the United States for internal im 
provements. His speech, delivered on that oc 
casion, does not intimate the smallest question 
as to the constitutional power of the govern 
ment, but proceeds upon the assumption of its 
being incontestable. When he was subse 
quently in the department of war, he made to 
Congress a brilliant report, sketching as splen 
did and magnificent a scheme of internal im 
provements for the entire nation, as ever was 
presented to the admiration and wonder of 
mankind. 

" No, sir, the senator from South Carolina is 
free from all reproach of sticking to hobbies. 
He was for a bank of the United States in 1816. 
He proposed, supported, and with his accus 
tomed ability, carried through the charter. He 
sustained it upon its admitted grounds of con 
stitutionality, of which he never once breathed 
the expression of a doubt. During the twenty 
years of its continuance no scruple ever escaped 
from him as to the power to create it. And in 
1834, when it was about to expire, he delibe 
rately advocated the renewal of its term for 
twelve years more. How profound he may 
suppose the power of analysis to be, and what 
ever opinion he may entertain of his own meta 
physical faculty, can he imagine that any 
plain, practical, common sense man can ever 
comprehend how it is constitutional to prolong 
an unconstitutional bank for twelve years ? He 
may have all the speeches he has ever delivered 
read to us in an audible voice by the secretary, 
and call upon the Senate attentively to hear 
them, beginning with his speech in favor of a 
bank of the United States in 1816, down to his 
speech against a bank of the United States, 
delivered the other day, and he will have made 
no progress in his task. I do not speak this in 
any unkind spirit, but I will tell the honorable 
senator when he will be consistent. He will 
be so, when he resolves henceforward, during 
the residue of his life, never to pronounce the 
word again. We began our public career 
nearly together j we remained together through- 



116 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



Dut the war and down to the peace. We agreed 
as to a bank of the United States as to a pro 
tective tariff as to internal improvements 
and lately, as to those arbitrary and violent 
measures which characterized the administra 
tion of General Jackson. No two prominent 
public men ever agreed better together in re 
spect to important measures of national policy. 
We concur now in nothing. We separate for 
ever." 

Mr. CALHOUN. " The senator from Kentucky 
says that the sentiments contained in my Edge- 
field letter then met his view for the first time, 
and that he read that document with equal pain 
and amazement. Now it happens that I ex 
pressed these self-same sentiments just as 
strongly in 1834, in a speech which was received 
with unbounded applause by that gentleman's 
own party; and of which a vast number of 
copies were published and circulated through 
out the United States. 

" But the senator tells us that he is among 
the most constant men in this world. I am 
not in the habit of charging others with incon 
sistency ; but one thing I will say, that if the 
gentleman has not changed his principles, he 
has most certainly changed his company ; for, 
though he boasts of setting out in public life a 
republican of the school of '98, he is now sur 
rounded by some of the most distinguished 
members of the old federal party. I do not de 
sire to disparage that party. I always respected 
them as men, though I believed their political 
principles to be wrong. Now, either the gen 
tleman's associates have changed, or he has ; 
for they are now together, though belonging 
formerly to different and opposing parties par 
ties, as every one knows, directly opposed to 
each other in policy and principles. 

' ; He says I was in favor of the tariff of 1816, 
and took the lead in its support. He is cer 
tainly mistaken again. It was in charge of my 
colleague and friend, Mr. Lowndes. chairman 
then of the committee of Ways and Means, as 
a revenue measure only. I took no other part 
whatever but to deliver an off-hand speech, at 
the request of a friend. The question of pro 
tection, as a constitutional question, was not 
touched at all. It was not made, if my memo 
ry serves me, for some years after. As to pro 
tection, I believe little of it, except what all ad 
mit was incidental to revenue, was contained in 
the act of 1816. As to my views in regard to 
protection at that early period, I refer to my 
remarks in 1813, when I opposed a renewal 
of the non-importation act, expressly on the 
ground of its giving too much protection to the 
manufacturers. But while I declared, in my 
place, that I was opposed to it on that ground, 
I at the same time stated that I would go as far 
as I could with propriety, when peace return 
ed, to protect the capital which the war and the 
sxtreine policy of the government had turned 
nto that channel. The senator refers to my 



report on internal improvement, when 1 wa| 
secretary of war ; but, as usual with him, for- 
gets to tell that I made it in obedience to a res 
olution of the House, to which I was bound to 
answer, and that I expressly stated I did not 
involve the constitutional question ; of which 
the senator may now satisfy himself, if he will 
read the latter part of the report. As to tho 
bonus bill, it grew out of the recommendation 
of Mr. Madison in his last message; and al 
though I proposed that the bonus should be 
set apart for the purpose of internal improve 
ment, leaving it to be determined thereafter, 
whether we had the power, or the constitution 
should be amended, in conformity to Mr. Madi 
son's recommendation. I did not touch the 
question to what extent Congress might pos 
sess the power ; and when requested to insert 
a direct recognition of the power by some of 
the leading members, I refused, expressly on 
the ground that, though I believed it existed, I 
had not made up my mind how far it extended. 
As to the bill, it was perfectly constitutional 
in my opinion then, and which still remains 
unchanged, to set aside the fund proposed, and 
with the object intended, but which could not 
be used without specific appropriations there 
after. 

" In my opening remarks to-day, I said the 
senator's speech was remarkable, both for its 
omissions arid mistakes ; and the senator infers, 
with his usual inaccuracy, that I alluded to a 
difference between his spoken and printed 
speech, and that I was answering the latter. 
In this he was mistaken ; I hardly ever read a 
speech, but reply to what is said here in de 
bate. I know no other but the speech deliver 
ed here. 

"As to the arguments of each of us, I am 
willing to leave them to the judgment of the 
country : his speech and arguments, and mine, 
will be read with the closer attention and deepei 1 
interest in consequence of this day's occurrence. 
It is all I ask." 

Mr. CLAY. " It is very true that the senator 
had on other occasions, besides his Edgefield 
letter, claimed that the influence arising from 
the interference of his* own State had effected 
the tariff compromise. Mr. C. had so stated 
the fact when up before. But in the Edge- 
field letter the senator took new ground, he de 
nounced those with whom he had been acting, 
as persons in whom he could have no confi 
dence, and imputed to them the design of re 
newing a high tariff and patronizing extrava 
gant expenditures, as the natural consequences 
of the establishment of a bank of the United 
States, and had presented this as a reason for 
his recent course. When, said Mr. C., I saw a 
charge like this, together with an imputation 
of* unworthy motives, and all this deliberately 
written and published, I could not but feel very 
differently from what I should have done under 
a mere casual remark, 



ANNO 1838. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



117 



" But the senator says, that if I have not 
changed principles, I have at least got into 
strange company. Why really, Mr. President, 
the gentleman has so recently changed his rela 
tions that he seems to have forgotten into 
what company he has fallen himself. He says 
that some of my friends once belonged to the 
federal party. Sir, I am ready to go into an 
examination with the honorable senator at any 
time, and then we shall see if there are not 
more members of that same old federal party 
amongst those whom the senator has so re 
cently joined, than on our side of the house. 
The plain truth is, that it is the old federal par 
ty with whom he is now acting. For all the 
former grounds of difference which distin 
guished that party, and were the great subjects 
of contention between them and the republi 
cans, have ceased from lapse of time and change 
of circumstances, with the exception of one, and 
that is the maintenance and increase of execu 
tive power. This was a leading policy of the 
federal party. A strong, powerful, and ener 
getic executive was its favorite tenet. The 
leading members of that party had come out of 
the national convention with an impression that 
under the new constitution the executive arm 
was too weak. The danger they apprehended 
was, that the executive would be absorbed by 
the legislative department of the government ; 
and accordingly the old federal doctrine was 
that the Executive must be upheld, that its in 
fluence must be extended and strengthened ; 
and as a means to this, that its patronage must 
be multiplied. And what, I pray, is at this 
hour the leading object of that party, which the 
senator has joined, but this very thing ? It 
was maintained in the convention by Mr. Madi- 
Bon, that to remove a public officer without 
valid cause, would rightfully subject a president 
of the United States to impeachment. But 
now not only is no reason required, but the 
principle is maintained that no reason can be 
asked. A is removed and B is put in his place, 
because such is the pleasure of the president. 

" The senator is fond of the record. I should 
not myself have gone to it but for the infinite 
gravity and self-complacency with which he 
appeals to it in vindication of his own consis 
tency. Let me then read a little from one of 
the very speeches in 1834, from which he has 
so liberally quoted, and called upon the secre 
tary to read so loud, and the Senate to listen so 
attentively : 

" But there is in my opinion a strong, if not an insuperable 
objection against resortin to this measure, resulting from the 
fitct that an exclusive receipt of specie in the treasury would, 
to give it efficacy, and to prevent extensive speculation and 
fraud, require an entire disconnection on the part of the gov 
ernment, with the banking system, in all its forms, and a re 
sort to the strong box, as the means of preserving and guard 
ing its funds a means, if practicable at all in the present state 
of things, liable to the objection of being far less safe, econo 
mical, and efficient, than the present." 

" Here is a strong denunciation of that very 
By stem he is now eulogising to the skies. Here 



he deprecates a disconnection with all banks as 
a most disastrous measure ; and, as the strongest 
argument against it, says that it will necessarily 
lead to the antiquated policy of the strong box. 
Yet, now the senator thinks the strong box 
system the wisest thing on earth. As to the 
acquiescence of the honorable senator in mea 
sures deemed by him unconstitutional, I only 
regret that he suddenly stopped short in his 
acquiescence. He was, in 1816, at the head of 
the finance committee, in the other House, having 
been put there by myself, acquiescing all the 
while in the doctrines of a bank, as perfectly 
sound, and reporting to that effect. He acqui 
esced for nearly twenty years, not a doubt es 
caping from him during the whole time. The 
year 1834 comes : the deposits are seized, the 
currency turned up side down, and the senator 
comes forward and proposes as a remedy a con 
tinuation of the Bank of the United States for 
twelve years here acquiescing once more ; and 
as he tells us, in order to save the country. 
But if the salvation of the country would justify 
his acquiescence in 1816 and in 1834, 1 can only 
regret that he did not find it in his heart to 
acquiesce once more in what would have reme 
died all our evils. 

" In regard to the tariff of 1816, has the senator 
forgotten the dispute at that time about the 
protection of the cotton manufacture ? The 
very point of that dispute was, whether we had 
a right to give protection or not. He admits 
the truth of what I said, that the constitutional 
question as to the power of the government to 
protect our own industry was never raised be 
fore 1820 or 1822. It was but first hinted, then 
controverted, and soon after expanded into nul 
lification, although the senator had supported 
the tariff of 1816 on the very ground that we 
had power. I do not now recollect distinctly 
his whole course in the legislature, but he cer 
tainly introduced the bonus bill in 1816, and 
sustained it by a speech on the subject of in 
ternal improvements, which neither expresses 
nor implies a doubt of the constitutional power. 
But why set apart a bonus, if the government 
had no power to make internal improvements ? 
If he wished internal improvements, but con 
scientiously believed them unconstitutional, why 
did he not introduce a resolution proposing to 
amend the constitution ? Yet he offered no 
such thing. When he produced his splendid 
report from the war department, what did he 
mean ? Why did he tantalize us with that 
bright and gorgeous picture of canals and roads, 
and piers and harbors, if it was unconstitutional 
for us to touch the plan with one of our fingers ? 
The senator says in reply, that this report did 
not broach the constitutional question. True. 
But why 1 Is there any other conclusion than 
that he did not entertain himself any doubt 
about it? What a most extraordinary thing 
would it be, should the head of a department, 
in his official capacity, present a report to botL 



118 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



houses of Congress, proposing a most elaborate 
plan for the internal improvement of the whole 
union, accompanied by estimates and statistical 
tables, when he believed there was no power in 
either house to adopt any part of it. The sena 
tor dwells upon his consistency : I can tell him 
when he will be consistent and that is when 
he shall never pronounce that word again." 

Mr. CALHOUN. " As to the tariff of 1816, I 
n&ver denied that Congress have the power to 
impose a protective tariff for the purpose of 
revenue ; and beyond that the tariff of 1816 
did not go one inch. The question of the con 
stitutionality of the protective tariff was never 
raised till some time afterwards. 

" As to what the senator says of executive 
power, I, as much as he, am opposed to its aug 
mentation, and I will go as far in preventing it 
as any man in this House. I maintain that the 
executive and judicial authorities should have 
no discretionary power, and as soon as they 
begin to exercise such power, the matter should 
be taken up by Congress. These opinions are 
well grounded in my mind, and I will go as far 
as any in bringing the Executive to this point. 
But, I believe, the Executive is now outstripped 
by the congressional power. He is for restrict 
ing the one. I war upon both. 

" The senator says I assigned as a reason of 
my course at the extra session that I suspected 
that he and the gentleman with whom he acted 
would revive the tariff. I spoke not of the tariff, 
but a national bank. I believe that banks natu 
rally and assuredly ally themselves to taxes on 
the community. The higher the taxes the greater 
their profits j and so it is with regard to a sur 
plus and the government disbursements. If the 
banking power is on the side of a national bank, 
I see in that what may lead to all the conse 
quences which I have described ; and I oppose 
institutions that are likely to lead to such re 
sults. When the bank should receive the money 
of the government, it would ally itself to taxa 
tion, and it ought to be resisted on that ground. 
I am very glad that the question is now fairly 
met. The fate of the country depends on the 
point of separation ; if there be a separation be 
tween the government and banks, the banks 
will be on the republican side in opposition to 
taxes ; if they unite, they will be in favor of 
the exercise of the taxing power. 

" The senator says I acquiesced in the use of 
the banks because the banks existed. I did so 
because the connection existed. The banks were 
already used as depositories of the government, 
and it was impossible at once to reverse that 
state of things. I went on the ground that the 
banks were a necessary evil. The State banks 
exist ; and would not he be a madman that 
would annihilate them because their respective 
bills are uncurrent in distant parts of the coun 
try ? The work of creating them is done, and 
cannot be reversed ; when once done, it is done 
."or ever. 



" I was formerly decided in favor of separating 
the banks and the government, but it was im 
possible then to make it, and it would have been 
followed by nothing but disaster. The senator 
says the separation already exists ; but it is 
only contingent ; whenever the banks resume, 
the connection will be legally restored. In 1834 
I objected to the sub-treasury project, and I 
thought it not as safe as the system now before 
us. But it turns out that it was more safe, as 
appears from the argument of the senator from 
Delaware, (Mr. Bayard.) I was then undei 
the impression that the banks were more safe 
but it proves otherwise." 

Mr. CLAY. " If the senator would review his 
speech again, he would see there a plain and 
explicit denunciation of a sub-treasury system. 

" The distinguished senator from South Caro 
lina (I had almost said my friend from South 
Carolina, so lately and so abruptly has he bursted 
all amicable relations between us, independent 
of his habit of change, I think, when he finds 
into what federal doctrines and federal company 
he has gotten, he will be disposed soon to feel 
regret and to return to us,) has not, I am per 
suaded, weighed sufficiently the import of the 
unkind imputations contained in his Edgefield 
letter towards his former allies imputations 
that their principles are dangerous to our insti 
tutions, and of their want of firmness and pa 
triotism. I have read that singular letter again 
and again, with inexpressible surprise and re 
gret ; more, however, if he will allow me to say 
so, on his own than on our account. 

" Mr. President, I am done ; and I sincerely 
hope that the adjustment of the account between 
the senator and myself, just made, may be as 
satisfactory to him as I assure him and the 
Senate it is perfectly so to me." 

Mr. CALHOUN. " I have more to say, but will 
forbear, as the senator appears desirous of hav 
ing the last word." 

Mr. CLAY. Not at all." 

The personal debate between Mr. Calhoun 
and Mr. Clay terminated for the day, and with 
apparent good feeling; but only to break out 
speedily on a new point, and to lead to further 
political revelations important to history Mr. 
Calhoun, after a long alienation, personal as well 
as political, from Mr. Van Buren, and bitter 
warfare upon him, had become reconciled to him 
in both capacities, and had made a complimen 
tary call upon him, and had expressed to him 
an approbation of his leading measures. All 
this was natural and proper after he had be 
come a public supporter of these measures ; but a 
manifestation of respect and confidence so de 
cided, after a seven years' perseverance in a war 
fare so bitter, could not be expected to pass 



ANNO 1838. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



119 



without the imputation of sinister motives; 
and, accordingly, a design upon the presidency 
as successor to Mr. Van Buren was attributed 
to him. The opposition newspapers abounded 
with this imputation; and an early occasion 
was taken in the Senate to make it the subject 
of a public debate. Mr. Calhoun had brought 
into the Senate a bill to cede to the several 
States the public lands within their limits, 
after a sale of the saleable parts at graduated 
prices, for the benefit of both parties the 
new States and the United States. It was 
the same bill which he had brought in two 
years before ; but Mr. Clay, taking it up as a 
new measure, inquired if it was an administra 
tion measure? whether he had brought it in 
with the concurrence of the President ? If no 
thing more had been said Mr. Calhoun could 
have answered, that it was the same bill which 
he had brought in two years before, when he was 
in opposition to the administration ; and that his 
reasons for bringing it in were the same now as 
then ; but Mr. Clay went on to taunt him with 
his new relations with the chief magistrate, and 
to connect the bill with the visit to Mr. Van 
Buren and approval of his measures. Mr. Cal 
houn saw that the inquiry was only a vehicle 
for the taunt, and took it up accordingly in that 
sense : and this led to an exposition of the rea 
sons which induced him to join Mr. Van Buren, 
and to explanations on other points, which be 
long to history. Mr. Clay began the debate thus : 

" Whilst up, Mr. Clay would be glad to learn 
whether the administration is in favor of or 
against this measure, or stands neutral and un 
committed. This inquiry he should not make, 
if the recent relations between the senator who 
introduced this bill and the head of that admin 
istration, continued to exist ; but rumors, of 
which the city, the circles, and the press are 
full, assert that those relations are entirely 
changed, and have, within a few days, been 
substituted by others of an intimate, friendly, 
and confidential nature. And shortly after the 
time when this new state of things is alleged to 
have taken place, the senator gave notice of his in 
tention to move to introduce this bill. Whether 
this motion has or has not any connection with 
that adjustment of former differences, the public 
would, he had no doubt, be glad to know. At 
all events, it is important to know in what re 
lation of support, opposition, or neutrality, the 
administration actually stands to this momen 
tous measure; and he [Mr. C.] supposed that 
the senator from South Carolina, or some other 



senator, could communicate the desired informa 
tion." 

Mr. Calhoun, besides vindicating himself, re 
buked the indecorum of making his personal 
conduct a subject of public remark in the Sen 
ate ; and threw back the taunt by reminding 
Mr. Clay of his own change in favor of Mr. 
Adams. 

" He said the senator from Kentucky had in 
troduced other, and extraneous personal matter ', 
and asked whether the bill had the sanction ol 
the Executive ; assigning as a reason for his in 
quiry, that, if rumor was to be credited, a change 
of personal relation had taken place between 
the President and myself within the last few 
days. He [Mr. C.] would appeal to the Senate 
whether it was decorous or proper that his per 
sonal relations should be drawn in question 
here. Whether he should establish or suspend 
personal relations with the President, or any 
other person, is a private and personal concern, 
which belongs to himself individually to deter 
mine on the propriety, without consulting $iny 
one, much less the senator. It was none of his 
concern, and he has no right to question me in 
relation to it. 

" But the senator assumes that a change in 
my personal relations involves a change of poli 
tical position ; and it is on that he founds his 
right to make the inquiry. He judges, doubt 
less, by his own experience ; but I would have 
him to understand, said Mr. C., that what may 
be true in his own case on a memorable occa 
sion, is not true in mine. His political course 
may be governed by personal considerations; 
but mine, I trust, is governed strictly by my 
principles, and is not at all under the control of 
my attachments or enmities. Whether the 
President is personally my friend or enemy, 
has no influence over me in the discharge of my 
duties, as, I trust, my course has abundantly 
proved. Mr. C. concluded by saying, that he 
felt that these were improper topics to intro 
duce here, and that he had passed over them as 
briefly as possible." 

This retort gave new scope and animation to 
the debate, and led to further expositions of the 
famous compromise of 1833, which was a matter 
of concord between them at the time, and of 
discord ever since ; and which, being much con 
demned in the first volume of this work, the 
authors of it are entitled to their own vindica 
tions when they choose to make them : and this 
they found frequent occasion to do. The debate 
proceeded : 

" Mr. Clay contended that his question, as 10 
whether this was an administration measure 01 



120 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



not, was a proper one, as it was important for 
the public information. He again referred to 
the rumors of Mr. Calhoun's new relations with 
the President, and supposed from the declara 
tions of the senator, that these rumors were 
true ; and that his support, if not pledged, was 
at least promised conditionally to the adminis 
tration. Was it of no importance to the public 
to learn that these pledges and compromises had 
been entered into ? that the distinguished sena 
tor had made his bow in court, kissed the hand 
of the monarch, was taken into favor, and agreed 
henceforth to support his edicts ? " 

This allusion to rumored pledges and condi 
tions on which Mr. Calhoun had joined Mr. 
Van Buren, provoked a retaliatory notice of 
what the same rumor had bruited at the time 
that Mr. Clay became the supporter of Mr. 
Adams ; and Mr. Calhoun said : 

"The senator from Kentucky had spoken 
much of pledges, understandings, and political 
compromises, and sudden change of personal re 
lations. He [said Mr. C.] is much more expe 
rienced in such things than I am. If my mem 
ory serves me, and if rumors are to be trusted, 
the senator had a great deal to do with such 
things, in connection with a distinguished citi 
zen* now of the other House ; and it is not at 
all surprising, from his experience then, in his 
own case, that he should not be indisposed to 
believe similar rumors of another now. But 
whether his sudden change of personal relations 
then, from bitter enmity to the most confiden 
tial friendship with that citizen, was preceded 
by pledges, understandings, and political com 
promises on the part of one or both, it is not 
for me to say. The country has long since 
passed on that." 

All this taunt on both sides was mere irrita 
tion, having no foundation in fact. It so hap 
pened that the writer of this View, on each of 
these occasions (of sudden conjunctions with 
former adversaries), stood in a relation to know 
what took place. In one case he was confiden 
tial with Mr. Clay ; in the other with Mr. Van 
Buren. In a former chapter he has given his 
testimony in favor of Mr. Clay, and against the 
imputed bargain with Mr. Adams : he can here 
give it in favor of Mr. Calhoun. He is entirely 
certain as much so as it is possible to be in sup 
porting a negative that no promise, pledge, or 
condition of any kind, took place between Mr. 
Calhoun and Mr. Van Buren, in coming together 
as they did at this juncture. How far Mr. Cal 
houn might have looked to his own chance of 
succeeding Mr. Van Buren, is another question, 
and a fair one. The succession was certainly 



open in the democratic line. Those who stood 
nearest the head of the party had no desire for 
the presidency, but the contrary; and only 
wished a suitable chief magistrate at the head 
of the government giving him a cordial sup 
port in all patriotic measures ; and preserving 
their independence by refusing his favors. This 
allusion refers especially to Mr. Silas Wright ; 
and if it had not been for a calamitous confla 
gration, there might be proof that it would ap 
ply to another. Both Mr. Wright and Mr. 
Benton refuged cabinet appointments from Mr. 
Van Buicn ; and repressed every movement 
in their favor towards the presidency. Under 
such circumstances, Mr. Calhoun might have 
indulged in a v/^ion of the democratic succes 
sion, after the second term of Mr. Van Buren, 
without the slippery and ignominious contriv 
ance of attempting to contract for it before 
hand. There was certainly a talk about it, and 
a sounding of public men. Two different 
friends of Mr. Calhoun, at two different times 
and places, one in Missouri (Thomas Hudson, 
Esq.), and the other in Washington (Gov. Wil 
liam Smith, of Virginia), inquired of this 
writer whether he had said that he could not 
support Mr. Calhoun for the presidency, if 
nominated by a democratic convention ? and 
were answered that he had, and because Mr. 
Calhoun was the author of nullification, and 
of measures tending to the dissolution of the 
Union. The answer went into the newspapers, 
without the agency of him who gave it, and 
without the reasons which he gave : and his 
opposition was set down to causes equally 
gratuitous and unfounded one, personal ill-will 
to Mr. Calhoun ; the other, a hankering after 
the place himself. But to return to Messrs. 
Clay and Calhoun. These reciprocal taunts 
having been indulged in, the debate took a 
more elevated turn, and entered the region of 
history. Mr. Calhoun continued : 

"I will assure the senator, if there were 
pledges in his case, there were none in mine. 
I have terminated my long-suspended personal 
intercourse with the President, without the 
slightest pledge, understanding, or compromise, 
on either side. I would be the last to receive 
or exact such. The transition from their for 
mer to their present personal relation was easy 
and natural, requiring nothing of the kind. It 
gives me pleasure to say, thus openly, that I 
have approved of all the leading measures of 
the President, since he took the Executive 



ANNO 1838. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



12) 



chair, simply because they accord with the prin 
ciples and policy on which I have long acted, 
and often openly avowed. The change, then, in 
our personal relations, had simply followed that 
of our political. Nor was it made suddenly, as 
the senator charges. So far from it, more than 
two years have elapsed since I gave a decided 
support to the leading measure of the Execu 
tive, and on which almost all others since have 
turned. This long interval was permitted to 
pass, in order that his acts might give assurance 
whether there was a coincidence between our 
political views as to the principles on which the 
government should be administered, before our 
personal relations should be changed. I deemed 
it due to both thus long to delay the change, 
among other reasons to discountenance such 
idle rumors as the senator alludes to. That his 
political course might be judged (said Mr. CAL 
HOUN) by the object he had in view, and not the 
suspicion and jealousy of his political opponents, 
he would repeat what he had said, at the last 
session, was his object. It is, said he, to oblit 
erate all those measures which had originated 
in the national consolidation school of politics, 
and especially the senator's famous American 
system, which he believed to be hostile to the 
constitution and the genius of our political sys 
tem, and the real source of all the disorders and 
dangers to which the country was, or had been, 
subject. This done, he was for giving the gov 
ernment a fresh departure, in the direction in 
which Jefferson and his associates would give, 
were they now alive and at the helm. He stood 
where he had always stood, on the old State 
rights ground. His change of personal relation, 
which gave so much concern to the senator, so 
far from involving any change in his principles 
or doctrines, grew out of them." 

The latter part of this reply of Mr. Calhoun 
is worthy of universal acceptance, and perpetual 
remembrance. The real source of all the disor 
ders to which the country was, or had been 
subject, was in the system of legislation which 
encouraged the industry of one part of the 
Union at the expense of the other which gave 
rise to extravagant expenditures, to be expended 
unequally in the two sections of the Union 
and which left the Southern section to pay the 
expenses of a system which exhausted her. 
This remarkable declaration of Mr. Calhoun was 
made in 1839 being four years after the slavery 
agitation had superseded the tariff agitation, 
and which went back to that system of meas 
ures, of which protective tariff was the main 
spring, to find, and truly find, the real source 
*f all the dangers and disorders of the country 
past and present. Mr. Clay replied : 

" Ho had understood the senator as felicitat 



ing himself on the opportunity which had been 
now afforded him by Mr. C. of defining once 
more his political position ; and Mr. C. must 
say that he had now defined it very clearly, 
and had apparently given it a new definition. 
The senator now declared that all the leading 
measures of the present administration had met 
his approbation, and should receive his support. 
It turned out, then, that the rumor to which 
Mr. C. had alluded was true, and that the sen 
ator from South Carolina might be hereafter 
regarded as a supporter of this administration, 
since he had declared that all its leading meas 
ures were approved by him, and should have 
his support. As to the allusion which the sen 
ator from South Carolina had made in regard 
to Mr. C.'s support of the head of another ad 
ministration [Mr. ADAMS], it occasioned Mr. C. 
no pain whatever. It was an old story, which 
had long been sunk in oblivion, except when 
the senator and a few others thought proper to 
bring it up. But what were the facts of that 
case ? Mr. C. was then a member of the House 
of Representatives, to whom three persons had 
been returned, from whom it was the duty of 
the House to make a selection for the presiden- 
cy. As to one of those three candidates, he was 
known to be in an unfortunate condition, in 
which no one sympathized with him more than 
did Mr. C. Certainly the senator from South 
Carolina did not. That gentleman was there 
fore out of the question as a candidate for the 
chief magistracy ; and Mr. C. had consequently 
the only alternative of the illustrious individual' 
at the Hermitage, or of the man who was now 
distinguished in the House of Representatives, 
and who had held so many public places with 
honor to himself, and benefit to the country. 
And if there was any truth in history, the 
choice which Mr. C. then made was precisely 
the choice which the senator from South Caro 
lina had urged upon his friends. The senator 
himself had declared his preference of Adams 
to Jackson. Mr. C. made the same choice; 
and his constituents had approved it from that 
day to this, and would to eternity. History 
would ratify and approve it. Let the senator 
from South Carolina make any thing out of that 
part of Mr. C.'s public career if he could. Mr. 
C. defied him. The senator had alluded to Mr. 
C. as the advocate of compromise. Certainly 
he was. This government itself, to a great ex 
tent, was founded and rested on compromise ; 
and to the particular compromise to which al 
lusion had been made, Mr. C. thought no man 
ought to be more grateful for it than the sena 
tor from South Carolina. But for that com 
promise, Mr. C. was not at all confident that he 
would have now had the honor to meet that 
senator face to face in this national capitol." 

The allusion in the latter part of this reply 
was to the President's declared determination 
to execute the laws upon Mr. Oilhoun ; f an 



122 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



overt act of treason should be committed under 
the nullification ordinance of South Carolina ; 
and the preparations for which (overt act) were 
too far advanced to admit of another step, either 
backwards or forwards ; and from which most 
critical condition the compromise relieved those 
who were too deeply committed, to retreat with 
out ruin, or to advance without personal peril. 
Mr. Calhoun's reply was chiefly directed to this 
pregnant allusion. 

" The senator from Kentucky has said, Mr. 
President, that I, of all men, ought to be grate 
ful to him for the compromise act. 

[Mr. CLAY. < ; I did not say < to me.' "J 
" The senator claims to be the author of that 
measure, and, of course, if there be any gratitude 
due, it must be to him. I, said Mr. Calhoun, 
made no allusion to that act ; but as the senator 
has thought proper to refer to it, and claim my 
gratitude, I, in turn, now tell him I feel not the 
least gratitude towards him for it. The meas 
ure was necessary to save the senator politi 
cally : and as he has alluded to the subject, both 
on this and on a former occasion, I feel bound 
to explain what might otherwise have been left 
in oblivion. The senator was then compelled to 
compromise to save himself. Events had placed 
him flat on his back, and he had no way to re 
cover himself but by the compromise. This is 
no after thought. I wrote more than half a 
dozen of letters home at the time to that eifect. 
I shall now explain. The proclamation and 
message of General Jackson necessarily rallied 
around him all the steadfast friends of the sena 
tor's system. They withdrew their allegiance at 
once from him, and transferred it to General 
Jackson. The senator was thus left in the most 
hopeless condition, with no more weight with his 
former partisans than this sheet of paper (raising 
a sheet from his desk). This is not all. The 
position which General Jackson had assumed, 
necessarily attracted towards him a distinguish 
ed senator from Massachusetts, not now here 
[Mr. WEBSTER], who, it is clear, would have 
reaped all the political honors and advantages 
of the system, had the contest come to blows. 
These causes made the political condition of the 
senator truly forlorn at the time. On him 
rested all the responsibility, as the author of the 
system; while all the power and influence it 
gave, had passed into the hands of others. Com 
promise w r as the only means of extrication. He 
was thus forced by the action of the State, which 
I in part represent, against his system, by my 
counsel to compromise, in order to save him 
self. I had the mastery over him on the occa 
sion." 

This is historical, and is an inside view of his 
tory. Mr. Webster, in that great contest of 
Nullification, was on the side of President Jack 



son, and the supreme defender of his greal 
measure the Proclamation of 1833 ; and the 
first and most powerful opponent of the 
measure out of which it grew. It was a splen 
did era in his life both for his intellect, and 
his patriotism. No longer the advocate of 
classes, or interests, he appeared the great de 
fender of the Union of the constitution of 
the country and of the administration, to 
which he was opposed. Keleased from the 
bonds of party, and from the narrow confines 
of class and corporation advocacy, his colossal 
intellect expanded to its full proportions in the 
field of patriotism, luminous with the fires of 
genius ; and commanding the homage, not of 
party, but of country. His magnificent ha 
rangues touched Jackson in his deepest-seated 
and ruling feeling love of country ! and 
brought forth the response which always came 
from him when the country was in peril, and a 
defender presented himself. He threw out the 
right hand of fellowship treated Mr. Webster 
with marked distinction commended him with 
public praise and placed him on the roll of pa 
triots. And the public mind took the belief, 
that they were to act together in future ; and 
that a cabinet appointment, or a high mission, 
would be the reward of his patriotic service. 
(It was the report of such expected preferment 
that excited Mr. Randolph (then in no condi 
tion to bear excitement) against General Jack 
son.) It was a crisis in the political life of Mr. 
Webster. He stood in public opposition to Mr. 
Clay and Mr. Calhoun. With Mr. Clay he had 
a public outbreak in the Senate. He was cor 
dial with Jackson. The mass of his party 
stood by him on the proclamation. He was at 
a point from which a new departure might be 
taken : one at which he could not stand still : 
from which there must be advance, or recoil. 
It was a case in which will, more than intellect, 
was to rule. He was above Mr. Clay and Mr. 
Calhoun in intellect below them in will. And 
he was soon seen co-operating with them (Mr. 
Clay in the lead), in the great measure con 
demning President Jackson. And so passed 
away the fruits of the golden era of 1833. It 
was to the perils of this conjunction (of Jack 
son and Webster) that Mr. Calhoun referred, 
as the forlorn condition from which the com 
promise relieved Mr. Clay : and. allowing to 
each the benefit of his assertion, history avixila 



ANNO 1838. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



123 



herself of the declarations of each in giving an 
inside view of personal motives for a momen 
tous public act. And, without deciding a ques 
tion of mastery in the disputed victory, History 
performs her task in recording the fact that, in 
a brief space, both Mr. Calhoun and Mr. Web 
ster were seen following the lead of Mr. Clay 
in his great attack upon President Jackson in 
the session of 1834-'35. 

" Mr. Clay, rejoining, said he had made no 
allusion to the compromise bill till it was done 
by the senator from South Carolina himself; he 
made no reference to the events of 1825 until 
the senator had himself set him the example ; 
and he had not in the slightest and the most 
distant manner alluded to nullification until 
after the senator himself had called it up. The 
senator ought not to have introduced that sub 
ject, especially when he had gone over to the 
authors of the force bill and the proclamation. 
The senator from South Carolina said that he 
[Mr. C.] was flat on his back, and that he was 
my master. Sir, I would not own him as my 
slave. He my master ! and I compelled by him ! 
And, as if it were impossible to go far enough 
in one paragraph, he refers to certain letters of 
his own to prove that I was flat on my back ! 
and, that I was not only on my back, but an 
other senator and the President had robbed 
me ! I was flat on my back, and unable to do 
any thing but what the senator from South 
Carolina permitted me to do ! 

"Why, sir, [said Mr. C.] I gloried in my 
strength, and was compelled to introduce the 
compromise bill ; and compelled, too, by the 
senator, not in consequence of the weakness, 
but of the strength, of my position. If it was 
possible for the senator from South Carolina to 
introduce one paragraph without showing the 
egotism of his character, he -would not now ac 
knowledge that he wrote letters home to show 
that he (Mr. C.) was flat on his back, while he 
was indebted to him for that measure which re 
lieved him from the difficulties in which he was 
involved. Now, what was the history of the 
case ? Flat as he was on his back, Mr. C. said 
he was able to produce that compromise, and to 
carry it through the Senate, in opposition to the 
most strenuous exertions of the gentleman who, 
the senator from South Carolina said, had sup 
planted him, and in spite of his determined and 
unceasing opposition. There was (said Mr. C.) 
a sort of necessity operating on me to compel 
me to introduce that measure. No necessity 
of a personal character influenced him; but 
considerations involving the interests, the peace 
and harmony of the whole country, as well as 
of the State of South Carolina, directed him in 
the course he pursued. He saw the condition 
of the senator from South Carolina and that of 
his friends ; he saw the condition to which he 
had reduced the gallant little State of South 



Carolina by his unwise and dangerous measures; 
he saw, too, that we were on the eve of a civil 
war; and he wished to save the effusion of 
blood the blood of our own fellow-citizens, 
That was one reason why he introduced the 
compromise bill. There was another reason 
that powerfully operated on him. The very in 
terest that the tariff laws were enacted to pro 
tect so great was the power of the then chief 
magistrate, and so rapidly was that power in 
creasing was in danger of being sacrificed. He 
saw that the protective system was in danger 
of being swept away entirely, and probably at 
the next session of Congress, by the tremendous 
power of the individual who then filled the Exe 
cutive chair ; and he felt that the greatest service 
that he could render it, would be to obtain for 
it ' a lease for a term of years,' to use an expres 
sion that had been heretofore applied to the com 
promise bill. He saw the necessity that existed 
to save the protective system from the danger 
which threatened it. He saw the necessity 
to advance the great interests of the nation, to 
avert civil war, and to restore peace and har 
mony to a distracted and divided country ; and 
it was therefore that he had brought forward 
this measure. The senator from South Carolina, 
to betray still further and more strikingly the 
characteristics which belonged to him, said, that 
in consequence of his (Mr. C.'s) remarks this 
very day, all obligations towards him on the 
part of himself (Mr. CALHOUN), of the State of 
South Carolina, and the whole South, were can 
celled. And what right had the senator to get 
up and assume to speak of the whole South, or 
even of South Carolina herself? If he was not 
mistaken in his judgment of the political signs 
of the times, and if the information which came 
to him was to be relied on, a day would come, 
and that not very distant neither, when the 
senator would not dare to rise in his place and 
presume to speak as he had this day done, as 
the organ of the gallant people of the State he 
represented/' 

The concluding remark of Mr. Clay was 
founded on the belief, countenanced by many 
signs, that the State of South Carolina would 
not go with Mr. Calhoun in support of Mr. Yan 
Buren ; but he was mistaken. The State stood 
by her distinguished senator, and even gave her 
presidential vote for Mr. Yan Buren at the en 
suing election being the first time she had 
voted in a presidential election since 1829. Mr. 
Grundy, and some other senators, put an end 
to this episodical and personal debate by turning 
the Senate to a vote on the bill before it 



124 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW 



CHAPTER XXIX. 

INDEPENDENT TREASURY, OK, DIVORCE OF BANK 
AND STATE: PASSED IN THE SENATE: LOST 
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES. 

THIS great measure consisted of two distinct 
parts : 1. The keeping of the public moneys : 
2. The hard money currency in which they 
were to be paid. The two measures together 
completed the system of financial reform recom 
mended by the President. The adoption of 
either of them singly would be a step and a 
step going half the distance towards establish 
ing the whole system: and as it was well sup 
posed that some of the democratic party would 
balk at the hard money payments, it was de 
termined to propose the measures singly. With 
this view the committee reported a bill for the 
Independent Treasury that is to say, for the 
keeping of the government moneys by its own 
officers without designating the currency to 
be paid to them. But there was to be a loss 
either way; for unless the hard money pay 
ments were made a part of the act in the first 
instance, Mr. Calhoun and some of his friends 
could not vote for it. He therefore moved an 
amendment to that effect ; and the hard money 
friends of the administration supporting his 
motion, although preferring that it had not been 
made, and some others voting for it as making 
the bill obnoxious to some other friends of the 
administration, it was carried; and became a 
part of the bill. At the last moment, and when 
the bill had been perfected as far as possible by 
its friends, and the final vote on its passage was 
ready to be taken, a motion was made to strike 
out that section and carried by the helping 
vote of some of the friends of the administration 
as was well remarked by Mr. Calhoun. The 
vote was, for striking out Messrs. Bayard, Bu 
chanan, Clay of Kentucky, Clayton (Jno. M.), 
Crittenden, Cuthbert, Davis of Mississippi, Ful 
ton, Grundy, Knight, M'Kean, Merrick, Morris, 
Nicholas, Prentiss, Preston, Rives, Robbins, 
Robinson, Rugglcs, Sevier, Smith, of Indiana, 
Southard, Spence, Swift, Talmadge, Tiptou, 
Wall, White, Webster, Williams 31. On the 
other hand only twenty-one senators voted for 
staining the clause. They were Messrs. Allen, 



of Ohio, Benton, Brown of North Carolina, Cal 
houn, Clay of Alabama, Hubbard of New 
Hampshire, King of Alabama, Linn of Mis 
souri, Lumpkin of Georgia, Lyon of Michigan 
Mouton of Louisiana, Niles, Norvell, Franklin 
Pierce, Roane of Virginia, Smith of Connecti 
cut, Strange of North Carolina, Trotter of Mis 
sissippi, Robert J. Walker, Silas Wright, Young 
of Illinois 21. 

This section being struck from the bill, Mr. 
Calhoun could no longer vote for it ; and gave 
his reasons, which justice to him requires to 
be preserved in his own words : 

"On the motion of the senator from Georgia 
(Mr. CUTHBERT), the 23d section, which pro 
vides for the collection of the dues of the gov 
ernment in specie, was struck out, with the aid 
of a few on this side, and the entire opposition 
to the divorce on the other. That section pro 
vided for the repeal of the joint resolution of 
1816, which authorizes the receipt of bank 
notes as cash in the dues of the public. The 
effects of this will be, should the bill pass in its 
present shape, that the government will collect 
its revenue and make its disbursements ex 
clusively in bank notes; as it did before the 
suspension took place in May last. Things will 
stand precisely as they did then, with but a 
single exception, that the public deposits will 
be made with the officers of the government 
instead of the banks, under the provision of the 
deposit act of 1836. Thus far is certain. All 
agree that such is the fact ; and such the effect 
of the passage of this bill as it stands. Now. 
he intended to show conclusively, that the dif 
ference between depositing the public money 
with the public officers, or with the banks 
themselves, was merely nominal, as far as the 
operation and profits of the banks were con 
cerned; that they would not make one cent 
less profit, or issue a single dollar less, if the 
deposits be kept by the officers of the govern 
ment instead of themselves ; and, of course, that 
the system would be equally subject to expan 
sions and contractions, and equally exposed to 
catastrophes like the present, in the one, as the 
other, mode of keeping. 

" But he had other and insuperable objections. 
In giving the bill originally his support, he was 
governed by a deep conviction that the total 
separation of the government and the banks 
was indispensable. He firmly believed that we 
had reached a point where the separation was 
absolutely necessary to save both government 
and banks. He was under a strong impression 
that the banking system had reached a point of 
decrepitude that great and important changes 
were necessary to save it and prevent convul 
sions ; and that the first step was a perpetual 
separation between them and the government. 
But there could be, in his opinion, no separation 



ANNO 1838. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



125 



no divorce without collecting the public 
dues in the legal and constitutional currency of 
the country. Without that, all would prove a 
perfect delusion ; as this bill would prove should 
it pass. We had no constitutional right to treat 
the notes of mere private corporations as cash j 
and if we did, nothing would be done. 

" These views, and many others similar, he 
had openly expressed, in which the great body 
of the gentlemen- around him had concurred. 
We stand openly pledged to them before the 
country and the world. We had fought the 
battle manfully and successfully. The cause 
\vas good, and having stood the first shock, no 
thing was necessary, but firmness ; standing 
fast on our position to ensure victory a great 
and glorious victory in a noble cause, which 
was calculated to effect a more important re 
formation in the condition of society than any 
in our time he, for one, could not agree to 
terminate all those mighty efforts, at this and 
the extra session, by returning to a complete 
and perfect reunion with the banks in the worst 
and most dangerous form. He would not belie 
all that he had said and done, by voting for the 
bill as it now stood amended ; and to terminate 
that which was so gloriously begun, in so miser 
able a farce. He could not but feel deeply dis 
appointed in what he had reason to apprehend 
would be the result to have all our efforts and 
labor thrown away, and the hopes of the coun 
try disappointed. All would be lost ! No ; he 
expressed himself too strongly. Be the vote 
what it may, the discussion would stand. Light 
had gone abroad. The public mind had been 
aroused, for the first time, and directed to this 
great subject. The intelligence of the country 
is every where busy in exploring its depths and 
intricacies, and would not cease to investigate 
till all its labyrinths were traced. The seed 
that has been sown will sprout and grow to 
maturity ; the revolution that has been begun 
will go through, be our course what it may." 

The vote was then taken on the passage of 
the bill, and it was carried by the lean major 
ity of two votes, which was only the difference 
of one voter. The affirmative vote was : Messrs. 
Allen, Benton, Brown, Clay of Alabama, Cuth- 
bert, Fulton, Hubbard, King, Linn, Lumpkin, 
Lyon, Morris, Mouton, Niles, Norvell, Pierce, 
Roane, Robinson, Sevier, Smith of Connecti 
cut, Strange, Trotter, Walker, Wall, Williams, 
Wright, Young 27. The negatives were : 
Messrs. Bayard, Buchanan, Calhoun, Clay of 
Kentucky, Clayton, Crittenden, Davies, Grun- 
dy, Knight, McKean, Merrick, Nicholas, Pren- 
tiss, Preston, Rives, Robbins, Ruggles, Smith 
of Indiana, Southard, Spence, Swift Talmadge, 
Tipton, Webster, Hugh L. White 25 

The act having passed the Senate by this 



slender majority was sent to the House of Rep 
resentatives ; where it was lost by a majority 
of 14. This was a close vote in a house of 236 
present ; and the bill was only lost by several 
friends of the administration voting with the 
j entire opposition. But a great point was 
gained. Full discussion had been had upon 
the subject, and the public mind was waked 
up to it. 



CHAPTER XXX. 

PUBLIC LANDS: GRADUATION OF PEICE : PRE 
EMPTION SYSTEM : TAXATION WHEN SOLD. 

FOR all the new States composed territory be 
longing, or chiefly so to the federal government, 
the Congress of the United States became the 
local legislature, that is to say, in the place of a 
local legislature in all the legislation that re 
lates to the primary disposition of the soil. In 
the old States this legislation belonged to the 
State legislatures, and might have belonged to 
the new States in virtue of their State sove 
reignty except by the u compacts n with the 
federal government at the time of their admis 
sion into the Union, in which they bound them 
selves, in consideration of land and money 
grants deemed equivalent to the value cf the 
surrendered rights, not to interfere with the 
primary disposition of the public lands, nor to 
tax them while remaining unsold, nor for five 
years thereafter. These grants, though accept 
ed as equivalents in the infancy of the States, 
were soon found to be very far from it, even in 
a mere moneyed point of view, independent of 
the evils resulting from the administration of 
domestic local questions by a distant national 
legislature. The taxes alone for a few years on 
the public lands would have been equivalent to 
all the benefits derived from the grants in the 
compacts. Composed of citizens from the old 
States where a local legislature administered 
the public lands according to the local interests 
selling lands of different qualities for different 
prices, according to its quality granting pre 
emptions and donations to first settlers and 
subjecting all to taxation as soon as it became 
public property; it was a national feeling to 
desire the same advantages ; and for this pur 
pose, incessant, and usually vain efforts were 



126 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



made to obtain them from Congress. At this 
session (18 37-' 38) a better progress was made, 
and bills passed for all the purposes through 
the Senate. 

1. The graduation bill. This measure had 
been proposed for twelve years, and the full 
system embraced a plan for the speedy and 
final extinction of the federal title to all the 
lands within the new States. Periodical reduc 
tions of price at the rate of 25 cents per acre 
until reduced to 25 cents : a preference in the 
purchase to actual settlers, constituting a pre 
emption right : donations to destitute settlers : 
and the cession of the refuse to States in which 
they lay: these were the provisions which 
constituted the system and which were all con 
tained in the first bills. But finding it impos 
sible to carry all the provisions of the system 
in any one bill, it became necessary to secure 
what could be obtained. The graduation-bill 
was reduced to one feature reduction of price ; 
and that limited to two reductions, bringing 
down the price at the first reduction to one 
dollar per acre: at the next 75 cents per 
acre. In support of this bill Mr. Benton made 
a brief speech, from which the following are 
some passages : 

' The bill comes to us now under more favor 
able auspices than it has ever done before. The 
President recommends it, and the Treasury 
needs the money which it will produce. A 
gentleman of the opposition [Mr. CLAY], re 
proaches the President for inconsistency in 
making this recommendation ; he says that he 
voted against it as senator heretofore, and re 
commends it as President now. But the gen 
tleman forgets so tell us that Mr. Van Buren, 
when a member of the Senate, spoke in favor 
of the general object of the bill from the first 
day it was presented, and that he voted in favor 
of one degree of reduction a reduction of the 
price of the public lands to one dollar per acre 
the last session that he served here. Far 
from being inconsistent, the President, in this 
recommendation, has only carried out to their 
legitimate conclusions the principles which he 
formerly expressed, and the vote which he for 
merly gave. 

" The bill, as modified on the motions of the 
senators from Tennessee and New Hampshire 
[Messrs. GRUNDY and HUBBARD] stands shorn 
rf half its original provisions. Originally it 



embraced four degrees of reduction , it now con 
tains but two of those degrees. The two last 
the fifty cent, and the twenty-five cent reduc 
tions, have been cut 'off. I made no objection 
to the motions of those gentlemen. I knew 
them to be made in a friendly spirit ; I knew 
also that the success of their motions was neces 
sary to the success of any part of the bill. Cer 
tainly I would have preferred the whole would 
have preferred the four degrees of reduction. 
But this is a case in which the homely maxim 
applies, that half a loaf is better than no bread. 
By giving up half the bill, ve may gain the other 
half; and sure I am that our constituents will 
vastly prefer half to nothing. The lands may 
now be reduced to one dollar for those which 
have been five years in market, and to seventy- 
five cents for those which have been ten years 
in market. The rest of the bill is relinquished 
for the present, not abandoned for ever. The 
remaining degrees of reduction will be brought 
forward hereafter, and with a better prospect of 
success, after the lands have been picked and 
culled over under the prices of the present bilL 
Even if the clauses had remained which have 
been struck out, on the motions of the gentle 
men from Tennessee and New Hampshire, it 
would have been two years from December 
next, before any purchases could have been made 
under them. They were not to take effect until 
December, 1840. Before that time Congress 
will twice sit again ; and if the present bill 
passes, and is found to work well, the enactment 
of the present rejected clauses will be a matter 
of course. 

" This is a measure emphatically for the bene 
fit of the agricultural interest that great inter 
est, which he declared to be the foundation of 
all national prosperit^y, and the backbone, and 
substratum of every other interest which was, 
in the body politic, front rank for service, and 
rear rank for reward which bore nearly all the 
burthens of government while carrying the go 
vernment on its back wh.ich was the fountain 
of good production, while it was the pack-horse 
of burthens, and the broad shoulders which re 
ceived nearly all losses especially from broken 
banks. This bill was for them ; and, in voting 
for it, he had but one regret, and that was, that 
it did not go far enough that it was not equal 
to their merits." 

The bill passed by a good majority 27 to 



ANNO 1838. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



127 



16 ; but failed to be acted upon in the House 
of Representatives, though favorably reported 
upon by its committee on the public lands. 

2. The pre-emptive system. The provisions 
of the bill were simple, being merely to secure 
the privilege of first purchase to the settler on 
any lands to which the Indian title had been 
extinguished; to be paid for at the minimum 
price of the public lands at the time. A senator 
from Maryland, Mr. Merrick, moved to amend 
the bill by confining its benefits to citizens of 
the United States excluding unnaturalized 
foreigners. Mr. Benton opposed this motion, 
in a brief speech. 

" He was entirely opposed to the amendment 
of the senator from Maryland (Mr. MERRICK). 
It proposed something new in our legislation. 
It proposed to make a distinction between aliens 
and citizens in the acquisition of property. 
Pre- emption rights had been granted since the 
formation of the government ; and no distinc 
tion, until now, had been proposed, between the 
persons, or classes of persons, to whom they 
were granted. No law had yet excluded aliens 
from the acquisition of a pre-emption right, and 
he was entirely opposed to commencing a sys 
tem of legislation which was to affect the pro 
perty rights of the aliens who came to our 
country to make it their home. Political rights 
rested on a different basis. They involved the 
management of the government, and it was right 
that foreigners should undergo the process of 
naturalization before they acquired the right of 
sharing in the government. But the acquisition 
of property was another affair. It was a private 
and personal affair. It involved no question but 
that of the subsistence, the support, and the 
comfortable living of the alien and his family. 
Mr. B. would be against the principle of the 
proposed amendment in any case, but he was 
particularly opposed to this case. Who were 
the aliens whom it proposed to affect? Not 
those who are described as paupers and crimi 
nals, infesting the purlieus of the cities, but 
those who had gone to the remote new States, 
and to the remote parts of those States, and 
into the depths of the wilderness, and there 
commenced the cultivation of the earth. These 
were the description of aliens to be affected; 
and if the amendment was adopted, they would 
be excluded from a pre-emption right in the 
soil they were cultivating, and made to wait 



until they were naturalized. The senator from 
Maryland (Mr. MERRICK), treats this as a case 
of bounty. He treats the pre-emption right as 
a bounty from the government, and says that 
aliens have no right to this bounty. But, is this 
correct ? Is the pre-emption a bounty ? Far 
from it. In point of money, the pre-emptioner 
pays about as much as any other purchaser. 
He pays the government price, one dollar and 
twenty-five cents ; and the table of land sales 
proves that nobody pays any more, or so little 
more that it is nothing in a national point of 
view. One dollar twenty-seven and a half cents 
per acre is the average of all the sales for fifteen 
years. The twenty millions of acres sold to 
speculators in the year 1836, all went at one 
dollar and twenty-five cents per acre. The 
pre-emption then is not a bounty, but a sale, and 
a sale for full price, and, what is more, for solid 
money ; for pre-emptioners pay with gold and 
silver, and not with bank credits. Numerous 
were the emigrants from Germany, France, Ire 
land, and other countries, now in the West, and 
especially in Missouri, and he (Mr. B.) had no 
idea of imposing any legal disability upon them 
in the acquisition of property. He wished them 
all well. If any of them had settled upon the 
public lands, so much the better. It was an 
evidence of their intention to become citizens, 
and their labor upon the soil would add to its 
product and to the national wealth." 

The motion of Mr. Merrick was rejected by 
a majority of 13. The yeas were : Messrs. 
Bayard, Clay of Kentucky, Clayton, Crittenden. 
Davis, Knight, Merrick, Prentiss, Preston, Rives 
Robbins, Smith, of Indiana, Southard, Spence. 
Tallmadge, Tepton, 15. The nays were : Messrs. 
Allen, Benton, Brown, Buchanan, Calhoun, Clay, 
of Alabama, Cuthbert, Fulton, Grundy, Hub- 
bard, King, Linn, Lumpkin, Lyon, Mauton 
Nicholas, Niles, Nowell, Pierce, Roane, Robin 
son, Sevier, Walker, Webster, White, Williams, 
Wright, Young, of Illinois, (28.) The bill being 
then put to the vote, was passed by a majority 
of 14. 

3. Taxation of public lands when sold. 
When the United States first instituted their 
land system, the sales were upon credit, at a 
minimum price of two dollars, payable in four 
equal annual payments, with a liability to revert 
if there should be any failure in the payments. 
During that time it was considered as public 



128 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



land, nor was the title passed until the patent 
issued which might be a year longer. Five 
years, therefore, was the period fixed, during 
which the land so sold should be exempt from 
taxation by the State in which it lay. This 
continued to be the mode of sale, until the year 
f !821, when the credit was changed for the cash 
system, and the minimum price reduced to one 
dollar twenty-five cents per acre. The reason 
for the five years exemption from state taxation 
had then ceased, but the compacts remaining 
unaltered, the exemption continued. Repeated 
applications were made to Congress to consent 
to the modification of the compacts in that arti 
cle ; but always in vain. At this session the 
application was renewed on the part of the new 
States ; and with success in the Senate, where 
the bill for that purpose passed nearly unani 
mously, the negatives being but four, to wit: 
Messrs. Brown, Clay, of Kentucky, Clayton, 
Southard. Being sent to the H. R. it remained 
there without action till the end of the session. 



CHAPTER XXXI. 

SPECIE BASIS FOR BANKS : ONE TRIED OF THE 
AMOUNT OF LIABILITIES THE LOWEST SAFE 
PROPORTION : SPEECH OF MR. BENTON ON THE 
RECHARTER OF THE DISTRICT BANKS. 

THIS is a point of great moment one on which 
the public mind has not been sufficiently 
awakened in this country, though well under 
stood and duly valued in England. The char 
ters of banks in the United States are usually 
drawn on this principle, that a certain propor 
tion of the capital, and sometimes the whole of 
it, shall be paid up in gold or silver before the 
charter shall take effect. This is the usual pro 
vision, without any obligation on the bank to 
retain any part of this specie after it gets into 
operation; and this provision has too often 
proved to be illusory and deceptive. In many 
cases, the banks have borrowed the requisite 
amount for a day, and then returned it; in 
many other cases, the proportion of specie, 
though paid up in good faith, is immediately 
lent out, or parted with. The result to the 
public is about the same in both cases; the 
bank has little or no specie, and its place is 



supplied by the notes of other banks. The 
great vice of the banking system in the United 
States is in banking upon paper upon the 
paper of each other and treating this paper as 
cash. This rr ay be safe among the banks them 
selves ; it may enable them to settle with one 
another, and to liquidate reciprocal balances; 
but to the public it is nothing. In the event 
of a run upon a bank, or a general run upon all 
banks, it is specie, and not paper, that is wanted. 
It is specie, and not paper, which the public 
want, and must have. 

The motion of the senator from Pennsylvania 
[Mr. BUCHANAN] is intended to remedy this 
vice in these District banks ; it is intended to 
impose an obligation on these banks to keep in 
their vaults a quantum of specie bearing a cer 
tain proportion to the amount of their imme 
diate liabilities in circulation and deposits. The 
gentleman's motion is well intended, but it is 
defective in two particulars : first, in requiring 
the proportion to be the one-fourth, instead of 
the one-third, and next, in making it apply to 
the private deposits only. The true propor 
tion is one-third, and this to apply to all tho 
circulation and deposits, except those which are 
special. This proportion has been fixed for a 
hundred years at the Bank of England -j and 
just so often as that bank has fallen below this 
proportion, mischief has occurred. This is the 
sworn opinion of the present Governor of the 
Bank of England, and of the directors of that 
institution. Before Lord Althorpe's committee 
in 1832, Mr. Horsley Palmer, the Governor of 
the Bank, testified in these words : 

"'The average proportion, as already ob 
served, of coin and bullion which the bank 
thinks it prudent to keep on hand, is at the 
rate of a third of the total amount of all her 
liabilities, including deposits as well as issues.' 
Mr. George Ward Norman, a director of the 
bank, states the same thing in a different form 
of words. He says : ' For a full state of the 
circulation and the deposits, say twenty-one 
millions of notes and six millions of deposits, 
making in the whole twenty-seven millions of 
liabilities, the proper sum in coin and bullion 
for the bank to retain is nine millions.' Thus, 
the average proportion of one-third between the 
specie on hand and the circulation and deposits, 
must be considered as an established principle 
at that bank, which is quite the largest, and 
amongst the oldest probably, the very oldest 
bank of circulation in the world." 

The Bank of England is not merely required 



ANNO 1838. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



129 



to keep on hand, in bullion, the one-third of its 
immediate liabilities ; it is bound also to let the 
country see that it has, or has not, that propor 
tion on hand. By an act of the third year of 
William IV., it is required to make quarterly 
publications of the average of the weekly liabil 
ities of the bank, that the public may see when 
ever it descends below the point of safety. 
Here is the last of these publications, which is 
a full exemplification of the rule and the policy 
which now governs that bank : 

Quarterly average of the weekly liabilities and 
assets of the Bank of England, from the 12th 
December, 1837, to the 6th of March, 1838, 
both inclusive, published pursuant to the act 
Sand William IV., cap. 98: 

Liabilities. Assets. 

Circulation, 18,600,000 Securities, 22,792,900 
Deposits, 11,535,000 Bullion, 10,015,000 



30,135,000 
London, March 12. 



30,807,000 



According to this statement, the Bank of 

England is now safe ; and, accordingly, we see 

that she is acting upon the principle of having 

bullion enough, for she is shipping gold to the 

^United States. 

The proportion in England is one-third. The 
bank relies upon its debts and other resources 
for the ether two-thirds, in the event of a run 
upon it. This is the rule in that bank which 
has more resources than any other bank in the 
world ; which is situated in the moneyed me 
tropolis of the world the richest merchants its 
debtors, friends and customers and the Gov 
ernment of England its debtor and backer, and 
always ready to sustain it with exchequer bills, 
and with every exertion of its credit and means. 
Such a bank, so situated and so aided, still 
deems it necessary to its safety to keep in hand 
always the one-third in bullion of the amount 
of its immediate liabilities. Now, if the propor 
tion of one-third is necessary to the safety of 
such a bank, with such resources, how is it pos 
sible for our banks, with their meagre resources 
and small array of friends, to be safe with a 
less proportion ? 

This is the rule at the Bank of England, and 
just as often as it has been departed from, the 
danger of that departure has been proved. It 
was departed from in 1797, when the proportion 
sunk to the one-seventh ; and what was the re 
sult? The stoppage of the banks, and of all the 

VOL. II.9 



banks in England, and a suspension of specie 
payments for six-and-twenty years! It was 
departed from again about a year ago, when the 
proportion sunk to one-eighth nearly ; and what 
was the result? A death struggle between the 
paper systems of England and the United States, 
in which our system was sacrificed to save hers. 
Her system was saved from explosion ! but at 
what cost ? at what cost to us, and to herself ? 
to us a general stoppage of all the banks for 
twelve months ; to the English, a general stag 
nation of business, decline of manufactures, and 
of commerce, much individual distress, and a 
loss of two millions sterling of revenue to the 
Crown. The proportion of one-third may then 
be assumed as the point of safety in the Bank 
of England ; less than that proportion cannot 
be safe in the United States. Yet the senator 
from Pennsylvania proposes less he proposes 
the one-fourth ; and proposes it, not because he 
feels it to be the right proportion, but from 
some feeling of indulgence or forbearance to 
this poor District. Now, I think that this is a 
case in which kind feelings can have no place, 
and that the point in question is one upon which 
there can be no compromise. A bank is a bank, 
whether made in a district or a State; and a 
bank ought to be safe, whether the stockholders 
be rich or poor. Safety is the point aimed at, 
and nothing unsafe should be tolerated. There 
should be no giving and taking below the point 
of safety. Experienced men fix upon the one- 
third as the safe proportion; we should not, 
therefore, take a less proportion. Would the 
gentleman ask to let the water in the boiler of 
a steamboat sink one inch lower, when the ex 
perienced captain informed him that it had 
already sunk as low as it was safe to go? Cer 
tainly not. So of these banks. One-third is 
the point of safety; let us not tamper with 
danger by descending to the one-fourth. 

When a bank stops payment, the first thing 
we see is an exposition of its means, and a de 
claration of ultimate ability to pay all its debts. 
This is nothing to the holders of its notes. Im 
mediate ability is the only ability that is of any 
avail to them. The fright of some, and the ne- 
ceesity of others, compel them to part with 
their notes. Cool, sagacious capitalists can 
look to ultimate ability, and buy up the notes 
from the necessitous and the alarmed. To them 
ultimate ability is sufficient ; to the community 



130 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



it is nothing. It is, therefore, for the benefit of 
the community that the banks should be re 
quired to keep always on hand the one-third of 
their circulation and deposits ; they are then 
trusted for two-thirds, and this is carrying 
credit far enough. If pressed by a run, it is as 
much as a bank can do to make up the other 
two- thirds out of the debts due to her. Three 
to one is credit enough, and it is profit enough. 
If a bank draws interest upon three dollars 
when it has but one, this is eighteen per cent., 
and ought to content her. A citizen cannot 
lend his money for more than six per cent., and 
cannot the banks be contented with eighteen ? 
Must they insist upon issuing four dollars, or 
even five, upon one, so as to draw twenty-four 
or thirty per cent. ; and thus, after paying their 
officers vast salaries, and accommodating friends 
with loans on easy terms, still make enough 
out of the business community to cover all ex 
penses and all losses : and then to divide larger 
profits than can be made at any other business ? 

The issuing of currency is the prerogative of 
sovereignty. The real sovereign in this coun 
try the government can only issue a cur 
rency of the actual dollar : can only issue gold 
and silver and each piece worth its face. The 
banks which have the privilege of issuing curren 
cy issue paper j and not content with two more 
dollars out for one that is, they go to five, ten, 
twenty failing of course on the first run ; and 
the loss falling upon the holders of its notes 
and especially the holders of the small notes. 

We now touch a point, said Mr. B., vital to 
the safety of banking, and I hope it will neither 
be passed over without decision, nor decided in 
an erroneous manner. We had up the same 
question two years ago, in the discussion of the 
bill to regulate the keeping of the public moneys 
by the local deposit banks. A senator from 
Massachusetts (Mr. WEBSTER) moved the 
question; he (Mr. B.) cordially concurred in 
it j and the proportion of one-fourth was then 
inserted. He (Mr. B.) had not seen at that 
time the testimony of the governor and direc 
tors of the Bank of England, fixing on the one- 
third as the proper proportion, and he presum 
ed that the senator from Massachusetts (Mr. 
W.) had not then seen it, as on another occasion 
he quoted it with approbation, and stated it to 
be the proportion observed at the Bank of the 
United States. The proportion of one-fourth 



was then inserted in the deposit bill j it was an 
erroneous proportion, but even that proportion 
was not allowed to stand. After having been 
inserted in the bill, it was struck out ; and it 
was left to the discretion of the Secretary of the 
Treasury to fix the proportion. To this I then 
objected, and gave my reasons for it. I was for 
fixing the proportion, because I held it vital to 
the safety of the deposit banks j I was against 
leaving it to the secretary, because it was a case 
in which the inflexible rule of law, and not tho 
variable dictate of individual discretion should 
be exercised ; and because I was certain that no 
secretary could be relied upon to compel the 
banks to toe the mark, when Congress itself had 
flinched from the task of making them do it. 
My objections were unavailing. The proportion 
was struck out of the bill ; the discretion of the 
secretary to fix it was substituted ; and that 
discretion it was impossible to exercise with 
any effect over the banks. They were, that is 
to say, many of them were, far beyond the 
mark then ; and at the time of the issuing of 
the Treasury order in July, 1836, there were 
deposit banks, whose proportion of specie in 
hand to their immediate liabilities was as one 
to twenty, one to thirty, one to forty, and even 
one to fifty ! The explosion of all such banks 
was inevitable. The issuing of the Treasury 
order improved them a little : they began to in 
crease their specie, and to diminish their lia 
bilities ; but the gap was too wide the chasm 
was too vast to be filled : and at the touch of 
pressure, all these banks fell like nine-pins ! 
They tumbled down in a heap, and lay there, 
without the power of motion, or scarcely of 
breathing. Such was the consequence of our 
error in omitting to fix the proper proportion 
of specie in hand to the liabilities of our deposit 
banks : let us avoid that error in the bill now 
before us. 



CHAPTER XXXII. 

THE NOETH AND THE SOUTH : COMPARATIVE 
PROSPERITY: SOUTHERN DISCONTENT: ITS 
TRUE CAUSE. 

To show the working of the federal government 
is the design of this View show how things 
are done under it and their effects ; that tho 



ANNO 1838. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT 



131 



good may be approved and pursued, the evil 
condemned and avoided, and the machine of 
government be made to work equally for the 
benefit of the whole Union, according to the 
wise and beneficent intent of its founders. It 
thus becomes necessary to show its working in 
the two great Atlantic sections, originally sole 
parties to the Union the North and the South 
complained of for many years on one part as 
unequal and oppressive, and made so by a 
course of federal legislation at variance with the 
objects of the confederation and contrary to the 
intent or the words of the constitution. 

The writer of this View sympathized with 
that complaint ; believed it to be, to much ex 
tent, well founded ; saw with concern the cor 
roding effect it had on the feelings of patriotic 
men of the South ; and often had to lament that 
a sense of duty to his own constituents required 
him to give votes which his judgment disapprov 
ed and his feelings condemned. This complaint 
existed when he came into the Senate ; it had, 
in fact, commenced in the first years of the fede 
ral government, at the time of the assumption 
of the State debts, the incorporation of the first 
national bank, and the adoption of the funding 
system ; all of which drew capital from the 
South to the North. It continued to increase ; 
and, at the period to which this chapter relates, 
it had reached the stage of an organized sec 
tional expression in a voluntary convention of 
the Southern States. It had often been ex 
pressed in Congress, and in the State legis 
latures, and habitually in the discussions of the 
people ; but now it took the more serious form 
of joint act : on, and exhibited the spectacle of a 
part of the States assembling sectionally to 
complain formally of the unequal, and to them, 
injurious operation of the common government, 
established by common consent for the common 
good, and now frustrating its object by depart 
ing from the purposes of its creation. The con 
vention was called commercial, and properly, as 
the grievance complained of was in its root 
commercial, and a commercial remedy was pro 
posed. 

It met at Augusta, Georgia, and afterwards 
at Charleston, South Carolina; and the evil 
complained of and the remedy proposed were 
strongly set forth in the proceedings of the 
body, and in addresses to the people of the 
Southern and Southwestern States. The chang 



ed relative condition of the two sections of th 
country, before and since the Union, was shown 
in their general relative depression or prosperity 
since that event, and especially in the reversed 
condition of their respective foreign import 
trade. In the colonial condition the compari 
son was wholly in favor of the South; under 
the Union wholly against it. Thus, in the year 
1760 only sixteen years before the Declaration 
of Independence the foreign imports into Vir 
ginia were 850,000 sterling, and into South 
Carolina 555,000 , while into New York 
they were only 189,000, into Pennsylvania 
490,000 ; and into all the New England Colo 
nies collectively only 561,000. 

These figures exhibit an immense superiority 
of commercial prosperity on the side of the 
South in its colonial state, sadly contrasting 
with another set of figures exhibited by the 
convention to show its relative condition with 
in a few years after the Union. Thus, in the 
year 1821, the imports into New York had 
risen to $23,000,000 being about seventy times 
its colonial import at about an equal period be 
fore the adoption of the constitution ; and these 
of South Carolina stood at $3,000,000 which, 
for all practical purposes, may be considered the 
same that they were in 1760. 

Such was the difference the reversed condi 
tions of the two sections, worked between 
them in the brief space of two generations 
within the actual lifetime of some who had seen 
their colonial conditions. The proceedings of 
the convention did not stop there, but brought 
down the comparison (under this commercial 
aspect) to near the period of its own sitting to 
the actual period of the highest manifestation 
of Southern discontent, in 1832 when it pro 
duced the enactment of the South Carolina nul 
lifying ordinance. At that tune all the dispro 
portions between the foreign commerce of the 
two sections had inordinately increased. The 
New York imports (since 1821) had more than 
doubled ; the Virginia had fallen off one-half j 
South Carolina two-thirds. The actual figures 
stood : New York fifty-seven millions of dol 
lars, Virginia half a million, South Carolina one 
million and a quarter. 

This was a disheartening view, and rendered 
more grievous by the certainty of its continua 
tion, the prospect of its aggravation, and the 
conviction that the South (in its great staples 



132 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



furnished the basis for these imports ; of which 
it received so small a share. To this loss of its 
import trade, and its transfer to the North, the 
convention attributed, as a primary cause, the 
reversed conditions of the two sections the 
great advance of one in wealth and improve 
ments the slow progress and even comparative 
decline of the other ; and, with some allowance 
for the operation of natural or inherent causes, 
referred the effect to a course of federal legisla 
tion unwarranted by the grants of the consti 
tution and the objects of the Union, which sub 
tracted capital from one section and accumu 
lated it in the other : protective tariff, internal 
improvements, pensions, national debt, two na 
tional banks, the funding system and the paper 
system; the multiplication of offices, profuse 
and extravagant expenditure, the conversion of 
a limited into an almost unlimited government ; 
and the substitution of power and splendor for 
what was intended to be a simple and economi 
cal administration of that part of their affairs 
which required a general head. 

These were the points of complaint abuses 
which had led to the collection of an enormous 
revenue, chiefly levied on the products of one 
section of the Union and mainly disbursed in 
another. So far as northern advantages were 
the result of fair legislation for the accomplish 
ment of the objects of the Union, all discontent 
or complaint was disclaimed. All knew that 
the superior advantages of the North for navi 
gation would give it the advantage in foreign 
commerce ; but it was not expected that these 
facilities would operate a monopoly on one side 
and an extinction on the otner ; nor was that 
consequence allowed to be the effect of these 
advantages alone, but was charged to a course 
of legislation not warranted by the objects of 
the Union, or the terms of the constitution, 
which created it. To this course of legislation 
was attributed the accumulation of capital in 
the North, which had enabled that section to 
monopolize the foreign commerce which was 
founded upon southern exports ; to cover one 
part with wealth while the other was impover 
ished ; and to make the South tributary to the 
North, and suppliant to it for a small part of 
the fruits of their own labor. 

Unhappily there was some foundation for 
this view of the case ; and in this lies the root 
of the discontent of the South and its dissatis 



faction with the Union, although it may break 
out upon another point. It is in this belief of 
an incompatibility of interest, from the pervert 
ed working of the federal government, that lies 
the root of southern discontent, and which 
constitutes the danger to the Union, and which 
statesmen should confront and grapple withj 
and not in any danger to slave property, which 
has continued to aggrandize in value during the 
whole period of the cry of danger, and is now 
of greater price than ever was known before ; 
and such as our ancestors would have deemed 
labulous. The sagacious Mr. Madison knew 
this knew where the danger to the Union lay, 
when, in the 86th year of his age, and the last 
of his life, and under the anguish of painful mis 
givings, he wrote (what is more fully set out in 
the previous volume of this work) these por 
tentous words : 

" The visible susceptibility to the contagion 
of nullification in the Southern States, the 
sympathy arising- from known causes, and 
the inculcated impression of a permanent in 
compatibility of interest between the North 
and the South, may put it in the power of 
popular leaders, aspiring to the highest sta 
tions^ to unite the /South, on some critical oc 
casion, in some course of action of which nul 
lification may be the Jirst step, secession the 
second, and a farewell separation the last." 

So viewed the evil, and in his last days, the 
great surviving founder of the Union seeing, 
as he did, in this inculcated impression of a per 
manent incompatibility of interest between the 
two sections, the fulcrum or point of support, 
on which disunion could rest its lever, and par 
ricidal hands build its schemes. What has 
been published in the South and adverted to in 
this View goes to show that an incompatibility 
of interest between the two sections, though 
not inherent, has been produced by the work 
ing of the government not its fair and le 
gitimate, but its perverted and unequal work 
ing. 

This is the evil which statesmen should see 
and provide against. Separation is no remedy j 
exclusion of Northern vessels from Southern 
ports is no remedy; but is disunion itself 
and upon the very point which caused the 
Union to be formed. Regulation of commerce 
between the States, and with foreign nations, 
was the cause of the formation of the Union. 
Break that regulation, and the Union is broken ; 



ANNO 1838. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



133 



and the broken parts converted into antagonist 
nations, with causes enough of dissension to 
engender perpetual wars, and inflame incessant 
animosities. The remedy lies in the right 
working of the constitution; in the cessation 
of unequal legislation in the reduction of the 
inordinate expenses of the government ; in its 
return to thB simple, limited, and economical 
machine it was intended to be ; and in the revi 
val of fraternal feelings, and respect for each 
other's rights and just complaints ; which would 
return of themselves when the real cause of dis 
content was removed. 

The conventions of Augusta and Charleston 
proposed their remedy for the Southern depres 
sion, and the comparative decay of which they 
complained. It was a fair and patriotic reme 
dy that of becoming their own exporters, and 
opening a direct trade in their own staples be 
tween Southern and foreign ports. It was re 
commended attempted failed. Superior ad 
vantages for navigation in the North greater 
aptitude of its people for commerce established 
course of business accumulated capital con 
tinued unequal legislation in Congress ; and in 
creasing expenditures of the government, chief 
ly disbursed in the North, and defect of seamen 
in the South (for manners cannot be made of 
slaves), all combined to retain the foreign trade 
in the channel which had absorbed it ; and to 
increase it there with the increasing wealth 
and population of the country, and the still 
faster increasing extravagance and profusion 
of the government. And now, at this period 
(1855), the foreign imports at New York are 
$195,000,000 ; at Boston $58,000,000 ; Jn Vir 
ginia $1,250,000 ; in South Carolina $1,750,000. 
This is what the dry and naked figures show. 
To the memory and imagination it is worse ; 
for it is a tradition of the Colonies that the 
South had been the seat of wealth and happi 
ness, of power and opulence ; that a rich popu 
lation covered the land, dispensing a baronial 
hospitality, and diffusing the felicity which 
themselves enjoyed ; that all was life, and joy, 
and affluence then. And this tradition was not 
without similitude to the reality, as this writer 
can testify ; for he was old enough to have seen 
(after the Revolution) the still surviving state 
of Southern colonial manners, when no travel 
ler was allowed to go to a tavern, but was 
handed over from family to family through en 



tire States ; when holidays were days of festivi 
ty and expectation, long prepared for, and cele 
brated by master and slave with music and 
feasting, and great concourse of friends and rela 
tives ; when gold was kept in desks or chests 
(after the downfall of continental paper) and 
weighed in scales, and lent to neighbors for 
short terms without note, interest, witness, or 
security; and on bond and land security for 
long years and lawful usance : and when petty 
litigation was at so low an ebb that it required 
a fine of forty pounds of tobacco to make a man 
serve as constable. 

The reverse of all this was now seen and felt, 
not to the whole extent which fancy or policy 
painted but to extent enough to constitute a 
reverse, and to make a contrast, and to excite 
the regrets which the memory of past joys never 
fails to awaken. A real change had come, and 
this change, the effect of many causes, was wholly 
attributed to one the unequal working of the 
Federal Government which gave all the bene 
fits of the Union to the North, and all its bur 
dens to the South. And that was the point on 
which Southern discontent broke out on which 
it openly rested until 1835 ; when it was shifted 
to the danger of slave property. 

Separation is no remedy for these evils, but 
the parent of far greater than either just discon 
tent or restless ambition would fly from. To 
the South the Union is a political blessing ; to 
the North it is both a political and a pecuniary 
blessing ; to both it should be a social blessing. 
Both sections should cherish it, and the North 
most. The story of the boy that killed the 
goose that laid the golden egg every day, that 
he might get all the eggs at once, was a fable ; 
but the Northern man who could promote sepa 
ration by any course of wrong to the South 
would convert that fable into history his own 
history and commit a folly, in a mere profit 
and loss point of view, of which there is no pre 
cedent except in fable. 



134 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW 



CHAPTER XXXIII. 

PROGRESS OF THE SLAVERY AGITATION: MR. 
CALHOUN'S APPROVAL OF THE MISSOURI COM 
PROMISE. 

THIS portentous agitation, destined to act so 
seriously on the harmony, and possibly on the 
stability of the Union, requires to be noted in 
its different stages, that responsibility may fol 
low culpability, and the judgment of history fall 
where it is due, if a deplorable calamity is made 
to come out of it. In this point of view the 
movements for and against slavery in the session 
of 1837-'38 deserve to be noted, as of disturbing 
effect at the time ; and as having acquired new 
importance from subsequent events. Early in 
the session a memorial was presented in the 
Senate from the General Assembly of Vermont, 
remonstrating against the annexation of Texas 
to the United States, and praying for the aboli 
tion of slavery in the District of Columbia 
followed by many petitions from citizens and 
societies in the Northern States to the same 
effect ; and, further, for the abolition of slavery 
in the Territories for the abolition of the slave 
trade between the States and for the exclusion 
of future slave States from the Union. 

There was but little in the state of the coun 
try at that time to excite an anti-slavery feel 
ing, or to excuse these disturbing applications 
to Congress. There was no slave territory at 
that time but that of Florida; and to ask to 
abolish slavery there, where it had existed from 
the discovery of the continent, or to make its 
continuance a cause for the rejection of the State 
when ready for admission into the Union, and 
thus form a free State in the rear of all the great 
slave States, was equivalent to praying for a dis 
solution of the Union. Texas, if annexed, would 
be south of 36 30', and its character, in relation 
to slavery, would be fixed by the Missouri com 
promise line of 1820. The slave trade between 
the States was an affair of the States, with which 
Congress had nothing to do ; and the continu 
ance of slavery in the District of Columbia, so 
long as it existed in the adjacent States of Vir 
ginia and Maryland, was a point of policy in 
which every Congress, and every administra 
tion, had concurred from the formation of the 



Union ; and in which there was never a mor 
decided concurrence than at present. 

The petitioners did not live in any Territory, 
State, or district subject to slavery. They felt 
none of the evils of which they complained 
were answerable for none of the supposed sin 
which they denounced were living under a 
general government which acknowledged prop 
erty in slaves and had no right to disturb the 
rights of the owner : and they committed a 
cruelty upon the slave by the additional rigors 
which their pernicious interference brought 
upon him. 

The subject of the petitions was disagreeable 
in itself; the language in which they were 
couched was offensive ; and the wantonness of 
their presentation aggravated a proceeding suffi 
ciently provoking in the civilest form in which 
it could be conducted. Many petitions were in 
the same words, bearing internal evidence of 
concert among their signers ; many were signed 
by women, whose proper sphere was far from 
the field of legislation ; all united in a common 
purpose, which bespoke community of origin, 
and the superintendence of a general direction. 
Every presentation gave rise to a question and 
debate, in which sentiments and feelings were 
expressed and consequences predicted, which it 
was painful to hear. While almost every sena 
tor condemned these petitions, and the spirit in 
which they originated, and the language in which 
they were couched, and considered them as 
tending to no practical object, and only calcu 
lated to make dissension and irritation, there 
were others who took them in a graver sense, 
and considered them as leading to the inevitable 
separation of the States. In this sense Mr. 
Calhoun said : 

"He had foreseen what this subject would 
come to. He knew its origin, and that it lay 
deeper than was supposed. It grew out of a 
spirit of fanaticism which was daily increasing, 
and, if not met in limine^ would by and by dis 
solve this Union. It was particularly our duty 
to keep the matter out of the Senate out of the 
halls of the National Legislature. These fanatics 
were interfering with what they had no right. 
Grant the reception of these petitions, and you 
will next be asked to act on them. He was for 
no conciliatory course, no temporizing ; instead 
of yielding one inch, he would rise in opposition ; 
and he hoped every man from the South would 
stand by him to put down this growing evil. 
There was but one question that would ever 
destroy this Union, and that was involved in 



ANNO 1838. MARTIN TAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



135 



this principle. Yes; this was potent enough 
for it, and must be early arrested if the Union 
was to be preserved. A man must see little 
into what is going on if he did not perceive that 
this spirit was growing, and that the rising 
generation was becoming more strongly imbued 
with it. It was not to be stopped by reports 
on paper, but by action, and very decided ac 
tion." 

The question which occupied the Senate was 
as to the most judicious mode of treating these 
memorials, with a view to prevent their evil 
effects: and that was entirely a question of 
policy, on which senators disagreed who con 
curred in the main object. Some deemed it 
most advisable to receive and consider the pe 
titions to refer them to a committee and 
subject them to the adverse report which 
they would be sure to receive ; as had been 
done with the Quakers' petitions at the be 
ginning of the government. Others deemed 
it preferable to refuse to receive them. The 
objection urged to this latter course was, that 
it would mix up a new question with the 
slavery agitation which would enlist the sym 
pathies of many who did not co-operate with 
the Abolitionists the question of the right of 
petition ; and that this new question, mixing 
with the other, might swell the number of pe 
titioners, keep up the applications to Congress, 
and perpetuate an agitation which would other 
wise soon die out. Mr. CLAY, and many others 
were of this opinion ; Mr. CALHOUN and his 
friends thought otherwise ; and the result was, 
so far as it concerned the petitions of individuals 
and societies, what it had previously been a 
half-way measure between reception and rejec 
tion a motion to lay the question of reception 
on the table. This motion, precluding all dis 
cussion, got rid of the petitions quietly, and 
kept debate out of the Senate. In the case 
of the memorial from the State of Vermont, 
the proceeding was slightly different in form, 
but the same in substance. As the act of a 
State, the memorial was received ; but after 
reception was laid on the table. Thus all the 
memorials and petitions were disposed of by 
the Senate in a way to accomplish the two-folc 
object, first, of avoiding discussion ; and, next 
condemning the object of the petitioners. I 
\vas accomplishing all that the South asked 
and if the subject had rested at that point, there 

would have been nothing in the history of this 



session, on the slavery agitation, to distinguish 
t from other sessions about that period: but 
the subject was revived ; and in a way to force 
discussion, and to constitute a point for the re 
trospect of history. 

Every memorial and petition had been dis 
posed of according to the wishes of the senators 
from the slaveholding States ; but Mr. Calhoun 
deemed it due to those States to go further, and 
to obtain from the Senate declarations which 
should cover all the questions of federal power 
over the institution of slavery : although he 
had just said that paper reports would do 
no good. For that purpose, he submitted a 
series of resolves six in number which de 
rive their importance from their comparison, 
or rather contrast, with others on the same 
subject presented by him in the Senate ten 
years later; and which have given birth to 
doctrines and proceedings which have greatly 
disturbed the harmony of the Union, and pal 
pably endangered its stability. The six reso 
lutions of this period ('37-'38) undertook to 
define the whole extent of the power dele 
gated by the States to the federal government 
on the subject of slavery ; to specify the acts 
which would exceed that power ; and to show 
the consequences of doing any thing not author 
ized to be done always ending in a dissolution 
of the Union. The first four of these related 
to the States ; about which, there being no dis 
pute, there was no debate. The sixth, without 
naming Texas, was prospective, and looked for 
ward to a case which might include her annexa 
tion ; and was laid upon the table to make way 
for an express resolution from Mr. Preston on 
the same subject. The fifth related to the ter 
ritories, and to the District of Columbia, and 
was the only one which excited attention, or has 
left a surviving interest. It was in these words: 

"Resolved, That the intermeddling of any 
State, or States, or their citizens, to abolish 
slavery in this District, or any of the territo 
ries, on the ground or under the pretext that it 
is immoral or sinful, or the passage of any act 
or measure of Congress with that view, would 
be a direct and dangerous attack on the institu 
tions of all the slaveholding States." 

The dogma of "no power in Congress to 
legislate upon the existence of slavery in terri 
tories " had not been invented at that time; 
and, of course, was not asserted in this resolve, 



136 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



intended by its- author to define the extent of 
the federal legislative power on the subject. 
The resolve went upon the existence of the 
power, and deprecated its abuse. It put the 
District of Columbia and the territories into 
the same category, both for the exercise of the 
power and the consequences to result irom the 
intermeddling of States or citizens, or the pas 
sage of any act of Congress to abolish slavery 
in either ; and this was admitting the power in 
the territory, as in the District ; where it is an 
express grant in the grant of all legislative 
power. The intermeddling and the legislation 
were deprecated in both solely on the ground of 
inexpediency. Mr. Clay believed this inexpe 
diency to rest upon different grounds in the Dis 
trict and in the territory of Florida the only 
territory in which slavery then existed, and to 
which Mr. Calhoun's resolution could apply. He 
was as much opposed as any one to the abolition 
of slavery in either of these places, but believed 
that a different reason should be given for each, 
founded in their respective circumstances ; and, 
therefore, submitted an amendment, consisting 
of two resolutions one applicable to the Dis 
trict, the other to the territory. In stating 
the reasons why slavery should not be abol 
ished in Florida, he quoted the Missouri com 
promise line of 1820. This was objected to by 
other senators, on the ground that that line did 
not apply to Florida, and that her case was com 
plete without it. Of that opinion was the Sen 
ate, and the clause was struck out. This gave 
Mr. Calhoun occasion to speak of that com 
promise, and of his own course in relation to it; 
in the course of which he declared himself to 
have been favorable to that memorable measure 
at the time it was adopted, but opposed to it 
now, from having experienced its ill effect *> in 
encouraging the spirit of abolitionism : 

i( He was glad that the portion of the amend 
ment which referred to the Missouri compromise 
had been struck out. He was not a member of 
Congress when that compromise was made, but 
it is due to candor to state that his impressions 
were in its favor ; but it is equally due to it to 
say that, with his present experience and knowl 
edge of the spirit which then, for the first time, 
began to disclose itself, he had entirely changed 
his opinion. He now believed that it was a 
dangerous measure, and that it has done much 
to rouse into action the present spirit. Had it 
then been met with uncompromising opposition, 
such as a then distinguished and sagacious 



member from Virginia [Mr. RANDOLPH], no\f 
no more, opposed to it, abolition might have 
been crushed for ever in its birth. He then 
thought of Mr. Randolph as, he doubts not, 
many think of him now who have not fully 
looked into this subject, that he was too un 
yielding too uncompromising too impractica 
ble ; but he had been taught his error, and took 
pleasure in acknowledging it." 

This declaration is explicit. It is made in a 
spirit of candor, and as due to justice. It is a 
declaration spontaneously made, not an admis 
sion obtained on interrogatories. It shows 
that Mr. Calhoun was in favor of the compro' 
mise at the time it was adopted, and had since 
changed his opinions "entirely changed" them, 
to use his own words not on constitutional, 
but expedient grounds. He had changed upon 
experience, and upon seeing the dangerous effects 
of the measure. He had been taught his error, 
and took pleasure in acknowledging it. He 
blamed Mr. Randolph then for having been too 
uncompromising; but now thought him saga 
cious ; and believed that if the measure had 
met with uncompromising opposition at the 
time, it would have crushed for ever the spirit 
of abolitionism. All these are reasons of expe 
diency, derived from after-experience, and ex 
cludes the idea of any constitutional objection. 
The establishment of the Missouri compromise 
line was the highest possible exercise of legis 
lative authority over the subject of slavery in a 
territory. It abolished it where it legally ex 
isted. It for ever forbid it where it had legally 
existed for one hundred years. Mr. Randolph 
was the great opponent of the compromise. He 
gave its friends all their trouble. It was then 
he applied the phrase, so annoying and destruc 
tive to its northern supporters " dough face," 
a phrase which did them more harm than 
the best-reasoned speech. All the friends of 
the compromise blamed his impracticable op 
position ; and Mr. Calhoun, in joining in that 
blame, placed himself in the ranks of the cor 
dial friends of the measure. This abolition 
and prohibition extended over an area large 
enough to make a dozen States ; and of all 
this Mr. Calhoun had been in favor ; and now 
had nothing but reasons of expediency, and 
they ex post facto^ against it. His expressed 
belief now was, that the measure was dangerous 
he does not say unconstitutional, but danger 
ous and this corresponds with the terms of his 



ANNO 1838. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



137 



resolution then submitted; which makes the 
intermeddling to abolish slavery in the District 
or territories, or any act or measure of Congress 
to that effect a " dangerous " attack on the in 
stitutions of the slaveholding States. Certainly 
the idea of the unconstitutionally of such legis 
lation had not then entered his head. The sub 
stitute resolve of Mr. Clay differed from that 
of Mr. Calhoun, in changing the word " inter 
meddling" to that of " interference ;" and con 
fining that word to the conduct of citizens, and 
making the abolition or attempted abolition of 
slavery in the District an injury to its own in 
habitants as well as to the States ; and placing 
its protection under the faith implied in accept 
ing its cession from Maryland and Virginia. It 
was in these words : 

" That the interference by the citizens of any 
of the States, with the view to the abolition of 
slavery in this District, is endangering the rights 
and security of the people of the District; and 
that any act or measure of Congress, designed 
to abolish slavery in this District, would be a 
violation of the faith implied in the cessions by 
the States of Virginia and Maryland a just 
cause of alarm to the people of the slaveholding 
States and have a direct and inevitable ten 
dency to disturb and endanger the Union." 

The vote on the final adoption of the resolu 
tion was : 

" YEAS Messrs. Allen, Bayard, Benton, 
Black, Brown, Buchanan, Calhoun, Clay, of 
Alabama, Clay, of Kentucky, Thomas Clayton, 
Crittenden, Cuthbert, Fulton, Grundy, Hub- 
bard, King, Lumpkin, Lyon, Nicholas, Niles, 
Norvell, Franklin Pierce, Preston, Rives, Roane, 
Robinson, Sevier, Smith, of Connecticut, Strange, 
Tallmadge, Tipton, Walker, White, Williams, 
Wright, Young. 

" NAYS Messrs. Davis, Knight, McKean, 
Morris, Prentiss, Smith, of Indiara, Swift, Web 
ster.'' 

The second resolution of Mr. Clay applied to 
slavery in a territory where it existed, and de 
precated any attempt to abolish it in such ter 
ritory, as alarming to the slave States, and as 
violation of faith towards its inhabitants, unless 
they asked it ; and in derogation of its right to 
decide the question of slavery for itself when 
erected into a State. This resolution was in 
tended to cover the case of Florida, and ran 
thus: 

" Resolved, That any attempt of Congress to 
abolish slavery in any territory of the United 
States in which it exists would create serious 



alarm and just apprehension in the States sus 
taining that domestic institution, and would be 
a violation of good faith towards the inhabitants 
of any such territory who have been permitted 
to settle with, and hold, slaves therein ; because 
the people of any such territory have not asked 
for the abolition of slavery therein ; and because, 
when any such territory shall be admitted into 
the Union as a State, the people thereof shal 
be entitled to decide that question exclusively 
for themselves." 

And the vote upon it was 

" YEAS Messrs. Allen, Bayard, Benton, 
Black, Brown, Buchanan, Calhoun, Clay, of 
Alabama, Clay, of Kentucky, Crittenden, Cuth 
bert, Fulton, Grundy, Hubbard, King, Lump- 
kin, Lyon, Merrick, Nicholas, Niles, Norvell, 
Franklin Pierce, Preston, Rives, Roane, Robin 
son, Sevier, Smith, of Connecticut, Strange, 
Tipton, Walker, "W hite, Williams, Wright, and 
Young. 

"NAYS Messrs. Thomas Clayton, Davis, 
Knight, McKean, Prentiss, Robbins, Smith, oi' 
Indiana, Swift, and Webster." 

The few senators who voted against both 
resolutions chiefly did so for reasons wholly un 
connected with their merits; some because 
opposed to any declarations on the subject, as 
abstract and inoperative ; others because they 
dissented from the reasons expressed, and pre 
ferred others : and the senators from Delaware 
(a slave State) because they had a nullification 
odor about them, as first introduced. Mr. 
Calhoun voted for both, not in preference to his 
own, but as agreeing to them after they had 
been preferred by the Senate; and so gave his 
recorded assent to the doctrines they contain 
ed. Both admit the constitutional power of 
Congress over the existence of slavery both in 
the district and the territories, but deprecate its 
abolition where it existed for reasons of high ex 
pediency : and in this view it is believed nearly 
the entire Senate concurred ; and quite the en 
tire Senate on the constitutional point there 
being no reference to that point in any part of 
the debates. Mr- Webster probably spoke the 
sentiments of most of those voting with him, as 
well as his own, when he said : 

" If the resolutions set forth that all domestic 
institutions, except so far as the constitution 
might interfere, and any intermeddling there 
with by a State or individual, was contrary to 
the spirit of the confederacy, and was thereby 
illegal and unjust, he would give them his hearty 
and cheerful support ; and would do so still if 



138 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



the senator from South Carolina would consent 
to such an amendment; but in their present 
form he must give his vote against them." 

The general feeling of the Senate was that of 
entire repugnance to the whole movement that 
of the petitions and memorials on the one hand 3 
and Mr. Calhoun's resolutions on the other. 
The former were quietly got rid of, and in a way 
to rebuke, as well as to condemn their presenta 
tion ; that is to say, by motions (sustained by the 
body) to lay them on the table. The resolutions 
could not so easily be disposed of, especially 
as their mover earnestly demanded discussion, 
spoke at large, and often, himself; " and desired 
to make the question, on their rejection or adop 
tion, a test question." They were abstract, lead 
ing to no result, made discussion where silence 
was desirable, frustrated the design of the Sen 
ate in refusing to discuss the abolition petitions, 
gave them an importance to which they were 
not entitled, promoted agitation, embarrassed 
friendly senators from the North, placed some 
in false positions ; and brought animadversions 
from many. Thus, Mr. Buchanan : 

" I cannot believe that the senator from South 
Carolina has taken the best course to attain 
these results (quieting agitation). This is the 
great centre of agitation ; from this capital it 
spreads over the whole Union. I therefore de 
precate a protracted discussion of the question 
here. It can do no good, but may do much 
harm, both in the North and in the South. The 
senators from Delaware, although representing 
a slaveholding State, have voted against these 
resolutions because, in their opinion, they can 
detect in them the poison of nullification. Now, 
I can see no such thing in them, and am ready 
to avow in the main they contain nothing but 
correct political principles, to which I am de 
voted. But what then ? These senators are 
placed in a false position, and are compelled to 
vote against resolutions the object of which they 
heartily approve. Again, my friend, the senator 
from New Jersey (Mr. Wall), votes against 
them because they are political abstractions of 
which he thinks the Senate ought not to take 
cognizance, although he is as much opposed to 
abolition, and as willing to maintain the consti 
tutional rights of the South as any senator upon 
this floor. Other senators believe the right of 
petition has been endangered; and until that 
has been established they will not vote for any 
resolutions on the subject. Thus we stand: 
and those of us in the North who must sustain 
the brunt of the battle are forced into false posi 
tions. Abolition thus acquires force by brin 
ing to its aid the right of petition, and the 
hostility which exists at the North against the 



doctrines of nullification. It is in vain to say 
hat these principles are not really involved in 
he question. This may be, and in my opinion 
s, true ; but why, by our conduct here, should 
we afford the abolitionists such plausible pre- 
,exts ? The fact is, and it cannot be disguised, 
,hat those of us in the Northern States who have 
determined to sustain the rights of the slave 
States at every hazard are placed in a most em- 
>arrassing situation. We are almost literally 
>etween two fires. Whilst in front we are 
assailed by the abolitionists, our own friends in 
;he South are constantly driving us into posi- 
,ions where their enemies and our enemies may 
gain important advantages." 

And thus Mr. Crittenden : 

" If the object of these resolutions was to pro 
duce peace, and allay excitement, it appeared to 
lim that they were not very likely to accom- 

sh such a purpose. More vague and general 
abstractions could hardly have been brought 
forward, and the}^ were more calculated to pro 
duce agitation and stir up discontent and bad 
blood than to do any good whatever. Such ho 
inew was the general opinion of Southern men, 
few of whom, however they assented to the ab 
stractions, approved of this method of agitating 
the subject. The mover of these resolutions 
relies mainly on two points to carry the Senate 
with him : first, he reiterates the cry of danger 
to the Union ; and, next, that if he is not fol 
lowed in this movement he urges the inevitable 
consequence of the destruction of the Union. It 
is possible the gentleman may be mistaken. It 
possibly might not be exactly true that, to save 
the Union, it was necessary to follow him. On 
the contrary, some were of opinion, and he for 
one was much inclined to be of the same view, 
that to follow the distinguished mover of these 
resolutions to pursue the course of irritation, 
agitation, and intimidation which he chalked 
out would be the very best and surest method 
that could be chalked out to destroy this great 
and happy Union." 

And thus Mr. Clay : 

" The series of resolutions under consideration 
has been introduced by the senator from South 
Carolina, after he and other senators from the 
South had deprecated discussion on the delicate 
subject to which they relate. They have occa 
sioned much discussion, in which hitherto 1 
have not participated. I hope that the tenden 
cy of the resolutions may be to allay the ex 
citement which unhappily prevails in respect to 
the abolition of slavery; but I confess that, 
taken altogether, and in connection with other 
circumstances, and especially considering tho 
manner in which their author has pressed them 
on the Senate, I fear that they will have the 
opposite effect ; and particularly at the North , 
that they may increase and exasperate instead 



ANNO 1838. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



139 



of diminishing and assuaging the existing agita 
tion." 

And thus Mr. Preston, of South Carolina : 

"His objections to the introduction of the 
resolutions were that they allowed ground for 
discussion ; and that the subject ought never to 
be allowed to enter the halls of the legislative 
assembly, was always to be taken for granted 
by the South ; and what would abstract propo 
sitions of this nature effect ? " 

And thus Mr. Strange, of North Carolina : 

" What did they set forth but abstract prin 
ciples, to which the South had again and again 
certified ? What bulwark of defence was need 
ed stronger than the constitution itself ? Every 
movement on the part of the South only gave 
additional strength to her opponents. The 
wisest, nay, the only safe, course was to remain 
quiet, though prepared at the same time to re 
sist all aggression. Questions like this only 
tended to excite angry feelings. The senator 
from South Carolina (Mr. CALHOUN) charged 
him with 'preaching 1 to one side. Perhaps 
he had sermonized too long for the patience of 
the Senate ; but then he had preached to all 
sides. It was the agitation of the question in 
any form, or shape, that rendered it dangerous. 
Agitating this question in any shape was ruinous 
to the South." 

And thus Mr. Richard H. Bayard, of Dela 
ware : 

" Though he denounced the spirit of abolition 
as dangerous and wicked in the extreme, yet he 
did not feel himself authorized to vote for the 
resolutions. If the doctrines contained in them 
were correct, then nullification was correct ; 
and if passed might hereafter be appealed to as 
a precedent in favor of that doctrine ; though he 
acquitted the senator [Mr. CALHOUN] of having 
the most remote intention of smuggling in any 
thing in relation to that doctrine under cover 
of these resolutions." 

Mr. Calhoun, annoyed by so much condem 
nation of his course, and especially from those 
as determined as himself to protect the slave 
institution where it legally existed, spoke often 
and warmly ; and justified his course from the 
greatness of the danger, and the fatal conse 
quences to the Union if it was not arrested. 

"I fear (said Mr. C.) that the Senate has not 
elevated its view sufficiently to comprehend the 
extent and magnitude of the existing danger. 
It was perhaps his misfortune to look too much 
to the future, and to move against dangers at 
too great a distance, which had involved him in 
many difficulties and exposed him often to the 
inputation of unworthy motives. Thus he had 



long foreseen the immense surplus revenue 
which a false system of legislation must pour 
into the Treasury, and the fatal consequences 
to the morals and institutions of the country 
which must follow When nothing else could 
arrest it he threw himself, with his State, into 
the breach, to arrest dangers which could not 
otherwise be arrested ; whether wisely or not 
he left posterity to judge. He now saw with 
equal clearness as clear as the noonday sun 
the fatal consequences which must follow 
if the present disease be not timely arrested. 
He would repeat again what he had so often 
said on this floor. This was the only ques 
tion of sufficient magnitude and potency to 
divide this Union ; and divide it it would, or 
drench the country in blood, if not arrested. 
He knew how much the sentiment he had ut 
tered would be misconstrued and misrepre 
sented. There were those who saw no dan 
ger to the Union in the violation of all its 
fundamental principles, but who were full of 
apprehension when danger was foretold or re 
sisted, and who held not the authors of the 
danger, but those who forewarned or opposed 
it, responsible for consequences." 

"But the cry of disunion by the weak or 
designing had no terror for him. If his attach 
ment to the Union was less, he might tamper 
with the deep disease which now afflicts the 
body politic, and keep silent till the patient was 
ready to sink under its mortal blows. It is a 
cheap, and he must say but too certain a mode 
of acquiring the character of devoted attachment 
to the Union. But, seeing the danger as he 
did, he would be a traitor to the Union and 
those he represented to keep silence. The as 
saults daily made on the institutions of nearly 
one half of the States of this Union by the 
other institutions interwoven from the begin 
ning with their political and social existence, 
and which cannot be other than that without 
their inevitable destruction will and must, if 
continued, make two people of one by destroy 
ing every sympathy between the two great sec 
tions obliterating from their hearts the recol 
lection of their common danger and glory and 
implanting in their place a mutual hatred, more 
deadly than ever existed between two neighbor 
ing people since the commencement of the hu 
man race. He feared not the circulation of the 
thousands of incendiary and slanderous publi 
cations which were daily issued from an organ 
ized and powerful press among those intended 
to be vilified. They cannot penetrate our sec 
tion ; that was not the danger ; it lay in a dif 
ferent direction. Their circulation in the non- 
slaveholding States was what was to be dread 
ed. It was infusing a deadly poison into the 
minds of the rising generation, implanting in 
them feelings of hatred, the most deadly ha 
tred, instead of affection and love, for one half 
of this Union, to be returned, on their part> 
with equal detestation. The fatal, the immu- 



140 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



table consequences, if not arrested, and that 
without delay, were such as he had presented. 
The first and desirable object is to arrest it 
in the non-slaveholding States; to meet the 
disease where it originated and where it exists ; 
and the first step to this is to find some com 
mon constitutional ground on which a rally, 
with that object, can be made. These resolu 
tions present the ground, and the only one, on 
which it can be made. The only remedy is in 
the State rights doctrines ; and if those who 
profess them in slaveholding States do not rally 
on them as their political creed, and organize as 
a party against the fanatics in order to put them 
down, the South and "West will be compelled to 
take the remedy into their own hands. They 
will then stand justified in the sight of God and 
man; and what in that event will follow no 
mortal can anticipate. Mr. President (said Mr. 
C.), we are reposing on a volcano. The Senate 
seems entirely ignorant of the state of feeling 
in the South. The mail has just brought us in 
telligence of a most important step taken by 
one of the Southern States in connection with 
this subject, which will give some conception 
of the tone of feeling which begins to prevail in 
that quarter." 

It was such speaking as this that induced 
some votes against the resolutions. All the 
Benators were dissatisfied at the constant exhi 
bition of the same remedy (disunion), for all 
the diseases of the body politic ; but the greater 
part deemed it right, if they voted at all, to vote 
their real sentiments. Many were disposed to 
lay the resolutions on the table, as the disturb 
ing petitions had been ; but it was concluded 
that policy made it preferable to vote upon 
them. 

Mr. BENTON did not speak in this debate. 
He believed, as others did, that discussion was 
injurious ; that it was the way to keep up and 
extend agitation, and the thing above all others 
which the abolitionists desired. Discussion 
upon the floor of the American Senate was to 
them the concession of an immense advantage 
the concession of an elevated and commanding 
theatre for the display and dissemination of 
their doctrines. It gave them the point to 
stand upon from which they could reach every 
part of the Union ; and it gave them the Reg 
ister of the Debates, instead of their local pa 
pers, for their organ of communication. Mr. 
Calhoun was a fortunate customer for them. 

The Senate, in laying all their petitions and 
the memorial of Vermont on the table with 
out debate, signified its desire to yield them no 



such advantage. The introduction of Mr. Cal 
houn's resolution frustrated that desire, and in 
duced many to do what they condemned. Mr. 
Benton took his own sense of the proper course, 
in abstaining from debate, and confining the ex 
pression of his opinions to the delivery of votes : 
and in that he conformed to the sense of the 
Senate, and the action of the House of Represen 
tatives. Many hundreds of these petitions were 
presented in the House, and quietly laid upon 
the table (after a stormy scene, and the adoption 
of a new rule), under motions to that effect ; and 
this would have been the case in the Senate, had 
it not been for the resolutions, the introduction 
of which was so generally deprecated. 

The part of this debate which excited no at 
tention at the time, but has since acquired a 
momentous importance, is that part in which 
Mr. Calhoun declared his favorable disposition 
to the Missouri compromise, and his condemna 
tion of Mr. Randolph (its chief opponent), for 
opposing it ; and his change of opinion since, 
not for unconstitutionality, but because he be 
lieved it to have become dangerous in encour 
aging the spirit of abolitionism. This compro 
mise was the highest, the most solemn, the most 
momentous, the most emphatic assertion of 
Congressional power over slavery in a territory 
which had ever been made, or could be con 
ceived. It not only abolished slavery where it 
legally existed ; but for ever prohibited it where 
it had long existed, and that over an extent of 
territory larger than the area of all the Atlan 
tic slave States put together : and thus yielding 
to the free States the absolute predominance in 
the Union. 

Mr. Calhoun was for that resolution in 1820, 
blamed those who opposed it ; and could see 
no objection to it in 1838 but the encourage 
ment it gave to the spirit of abolitionism. Nine 
years afterwards (session of 1846-'47) he sub 
mitted other resolutions (five in number) on 
the same power of Congress over slavery legis 
lation in the territories ; in which he denied the 
power, and asserted that any such legislation 
to the prejudice of the slaveholding emigrants 
from the States, in preventing them from re 
moving, with their slave property, to such ter 
ritory, " would be a violation of the constitu 
tion and the rights of the States from which 
such citizens emigrated, and a derogation 01 
that perfect equality which belongs to them as 



ANNO 1838. MARTIN YAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



141 



members of this Union ; and 'would tend di 
rectly to subvert the Union itself." 

These resolutions, so new and startling in 
their doctrines so contrary to their anteces- 
sors, and to the whole course of the government 
were denounced by the writer of this View 
the instant they were read in the Senate , and, 
being much discountenanced by other senators, 
they were never pressed to a vote in that body ; 
but were afterwards adopted by some of the 
slave State legislatures. One year afterwards, 
in a debate on the Oregon territorial bill, and 
on the section which proposed to declare the 
anti-slavery clause of the ordinance of 1787 to 
be in force in that territory. Mr. Calhoun de- 
raed the power of Congress to make any such 
declaration, or in any way to legislate upon 
slavery in a territory. He delivered a most 
elaborate and thoroughly considered speech on 
the subject, in the course of which he laid down 
three propositions : 

1. That Congress had no power to legislate 
upon slavery in a territory, so as to prevent 
the citizens of slaveholding States from remov 
ing into it with their slave property. 2. That 
Congress had no power to delegate such au 
thority to a territory. 3. That the territory 
had no such power in itself (thus leaving the 
subject of slavery in a territory without any 
legislative power over it at all). He deduced 
these dogmas from a new insight into the con 
stitution, which, according to this fresh intro 
spection, recognized slavery as a national insti 
tution, and carried that part of itself (by its 
own vigor) into all the territories ; and pro 
tected slavery there : ergo, neither Congress, 
aor its deputed territorial legislature, nor the 
people of the territory during their territorial 
condition, could any way touch the subject 
either to affirm, or disaffirm the institution. 
He endeavored to obtain from Congress a 
crutch to aid these lame doctrines in limping 
into the territories by getting the constitution 
voted into them, as part of their organic law ; 
and, failing in that attempt (repeatedly made), 
he took position on the ground that the consti 
tution went into these possessions of itself, so 
far as slavery was concerned, it being a na 
tional institution. 

These three propositions being in flagrant con 
flict with the power exercised by Congress in the 
establishment of the Missouri compromise lino 



(which had become a tradition as a Southern 
measure, supported by Southern members of 
Congress, and sanctioned by the cabinet of Mr. 
Monroe, of which Mr. Calhoun was a member), 
the fact of that compromise and his concur 
rence in it was immediately used against him 
by Senator Dix, of New York, to invalidate his 
present opinions. 

Unfortunately he had forgotten this cabinet 
consultation, and his own concurrence in its 
decision believing fully that no such thing 
had occurred, and adhering firmly to the new 
dogma of total denial of all constitutional power 
in Congress to legislate upon slavery in a terri 
tory. This brought up recollections to sustain 
the tradition which told of the consultation to 
show that it took place that its voice was 
unanimous in favor of the compromise ; and, 
consequently, that Mr. Calhoun himself was in 
favor of it. Old writings were produced : 

First, a fac simile copy of an original paper 
in Mr. Monroe's handwriting, found among his 
manuscripts, dated March 4, 1820 (two days 
before the approval of the Missouri compromise 
act), and indorsed : " Interrogatories Missouri 
to the Heads of Departments and the Attor 
ney-General ;" and containing within two ques 
tions : "1. Has Congress a right, under the 
powers vested in it by the constitution, to 
make a regulation prohibiting slavery in a ter 
ritory ? 2. Is the 8th section of the act which 
passed both Houses of Congress on the 3d in 
stant for the admission of Missouri into the 
Union, consistent with the constitution ? " 
Secondly, the draft of an original letter in 
Mr. Monroe's handwriting, but without signa 
ture, date, or address, but believed to have been 
addressed to General Jackson, in which he 
says : " The question which lately agitated Con 
gress and the public has been settled, as you 
have seen, by the passage of an act for the ad 
mission of Missouri as a State, unrestricted > 
and Arkansas, also, when it reaches maturity j 
and the establishment of the parallel of 36 
degrees 30 minutes as a line north of which 
slavery is prohibited, and permitted south of it, 
I took the opinion, in writing, of the adminis 
tration as to the constitutionality of restraining 
territories, which was explicit in favor of it 3 
and, as it was, that the 8th section of the act 
was applicable to territories only, and not to 
States when they should be admitted into the 



142 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



Union." Thirdly , an extract from the diary of 
Mr. John Quincy Adams, under date of the 3d of 
March, 1820, stating that the President on that 
day assembled his cabinet to ask their opinions 
on the two questions mentioned which the 
whole cabinet immediately answered unani 
mously, and affirmatively ; that on the 5th he 
sent the questions in writing to the members 
of his cabinet, to receive their written answers, 
to be filed in the department of State ; and that 
on the 6th he took his own answer to the Pres 
ident, to be filed with the rest all agreeing in 
the affirmative, and only differing some in as 
signing, others not assigning reasons for his 
opinion. The diary states that the President 
signed his approval of the Missouri act on the 
6th (which the act shows he did), and request 
ed Mr. Adams to have all the opinions filed in 
the department of State. 

Upon this evidence it would have rested 
without question that Mr. Monroe's cabinet 
had been consulted on the constitutionality of 
the Missouri compromise line, and that all con 
curred in it, had it not been for the denial of 
Mr. Calhoun in the debate on the Oregon ter 
ritorial bill. His denial brought out this evi 
dence ; and, notwithstanding its production and 
collusiveness, he adhered tenaciously to his 
disbelief of the whole occurrence and especial 
ly the whole of his own imputed share in it. 
Two circumstances, specious in themselves, fa 
vored this denial : Jirst, that no such papers as 
those described by Mr. Adams were to be found 
in the department of State ; secondly, that in 
the original draft of Mr. Monroe's letter it had 
first been written that the affirmative answers 
of his cabinet to his two interrogatories were 
u unanimous" which word had been crossed 
out and " explicit " substituted. 

With some these two circumstances weighed 
nothing against the testimony of two witnesses, 
and the current corroborating incidents of tradi 
tion. In the lapse of twenty-seven years, and 
in the changes to which our cabinet officers and 
the clerks of departments are subjected, it was 
easy to believe that the papers had been mislaid 
or lost far easier than to believe that Mr. 
Adams could have been mistaken in the entry 
made in his diary at the time. And as to the 
substitution of "explicit" for "unanimous," 
that was known to be necessary in order to 
ivoid the violation of the rule which forbid the 



disclosure of individual opinions in the cabinet 
consultations. With others, and especially with 
the political friends of Mr. Calhoun, they were 
received as full confirmation of his denial, and 
left them at liberty to accept his present opin 
ions as those of his whole life, uninvalidated by 
previous personal discrepancy, and uncounter- 
acted by the weight of a cabinet decision under 
Mr. Monroe: and accordingly the new-born 
dogma of no power in Congress to legislate 
upon the existence of slavery in t/ie territories 
became an article of political faith, incorporated 
in the creed, and that for action, of a large poli 
tical party. What is now brought to light of 
the proceedings in the Senate in '37-'38 shows 
this to have been a mistake that Mr. Calhoun 
admitted the power in 1820, when he favored 
the compromise and blamed Mr. Randolph for 
opposing it ; that he admitted it again in 1838, 
when he submitted his own resolutions, and 
yoted for those of Mr. Clay. It so happened that 
no one recollected these proceedings of '37-'38 
at the time of the Oregon debate of '47-'48. The 
writer of this View, though possessing a me 
mory credited as tenacious, did not recollect 
them, nor remember them at all, until found 
among the materials collected for this his 
tory a circumstance which he attributes to 
his repugnance to the whole debate, and tak 
ing no part in the proceedings except to 
vote. 

The cabinet consultation of 1820 was not 
mentioned by Mr. Calhoun in his avowal of 
1838, nor is it necessary to the object of this 
View to pursue his connection with that private 
executive counselling. The only material in 
quiry is as to his approval of the Missouri com 
promise at the time it was adopted ; and that is 
fully established by himself. 

It would be a labor unworthy of history to 
look up the conduct of any public man, and 
trace him through shifting scenes, with a mero 
view to personal effect with a mere view to 
personal disparagement, by showing him contra 
dictory and inconsistent at some period of hi* 
course. Such a labor would be idle, unprofit 
able, and derogatory ; but, when a change takes 
place in a public man's opinions which leads to 
a change of conduct, and into a new line of 
action disastrous to the country, it becomes the 
duty of history to note the fact, and to expose 
the contradiction not for personal disparage- 



ANNO 1838. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



143 



ment but to counteract the force of the new 
and dangerous opinion. 

In this sense it becomes an obligatory task to 
show the change, or rather changes, in Mr. Cal- 
houn's opinions on the constitutional power of 
Congress over the existence of slavery in the 
national territories; and these changes have 
been great too great to admit of followers if 
they had been known. First, fully admitting 
the power, and justifying its exercise in the 
largest and highest possible case. Next, ad 
mitting the power, but deprecating its exercise 
in certain limited, specified, qualified cases. 
Then, denying it in a limited and specified case. 
Finally, denying the power any where, and 
every where, either in Congress, or in the terri 
torial legislature as its delegate, or in the people 
as sovereign. The last of these mutations, or 
rather the one before the last (for there are but 
few who can go the whole length of the three 
propositions in the Oregon speech), has been 
adopted by a large political party and acted 
upon ; and with deplorable effect to the coun 
try. Holding the Missouri compromise to have 
been unconstitutional, they have abrogated it 
as a nullity ; and in so doing have done more to 
disturb the harmony of this Union, to unsettle 
its foundations, to shake its stability, and to 
prapare the two halves of the Union for part 
ing, than any act, or all acts put together, since 
the commencement of the federal government. 
This lamentable act could not have been done, 
could not have found a party to do it. if Mr. 
Calhoun had not changed his opinion on the 
constitutionality of the Missouri compromise 
line; or if he could have recollected in 1848 
that he approved that line in 1820 ; and fur 
ther remembered, that he saw nothing uncon 
stitutional in it as late as 1838. The change 
being now shown, and the imperfection of his 
memory made manifest by his own testimony, it 
becomes certain that the new doctrine was an 
after-thought, disowned by its antecedents a 
figment of the brain lately hatched and which 
its author would have been estopped from pro 
mulgating if these antecedents had been recol 
lected. History now pleads them as an estoppel 
against his followers. 

Mr. Monroe, in his letter to General Jackson, 
immediately after the establishment of the Mis 
souri compromise, said that that compromise 
ettled the slavery agitation which threatened 



to break up the Union. Thirtj^-four years of 
quiet and harmony under that settlement bear 
witness to the truth of these words, spoken in 
the fulness of patriotic gratitude at seeing his 
country escape from a great danger. The year 
1854 has seen the abrogation of that compro 
mise ; and with its abrogation the revival of the 
agitation, and with a force and fury never known 
before : and now may be seen in fact what was 
hypothetically foreseen by Mr. Calhoun in 1838, 
when, as the fruit of this agitation, he saw the 
destruction of all sympathy between the two 
sections of the Union obliteration from the me 
mory of all proud recollections of former com 
mon danger and glory hatred in the hearts of 
the North and the South, more deadly than 
ever existed between two neighboring nations. 
May we not have to witness the remainder of 
his prophetic vision "Two PEOPLE M^DE OF 
ONE ! 

P. S. After this chapter had been written, 
the author received authentic information that, 
during the time that John M. Clayton, Esq. of 
Delaware, was Secretary of State under Presi 
dent Taylor (1849-50), evidence had been 
found in the Department of State, of the fact, 
that the opinion of Mr. Calhoun and of the rest 
of Mr. Monroe's cabinet, had been filed there. 
In consequence a note of inquiry was addressed 
to Mr, Clayton, who answered (under date of 
July 19th, 1855) as follows : 

" In reply to your inquiry I have to state that 
I have no recollection of having ever met with 
Mr. Calhoun' s answer to Mr. Monroe's cabinet 
queries, as to the constitutionality of the Mis 
souri compromise. It had not been found while 
I was in the department of state, as I was then 
informed : but the archives of the department 
disclose the fact, that Mr. Calhoun, and other 
members of the cabinet, did answer Mr. Mon 
roe's questions. It appears by an index that 
these answers were filed among the archives of 
that department. I was told they had been 
abstracted from the records, and could not be 
found ; but I did not make a search for their 
myself. I have never doubted that Mr. Calhoun 
at least acquiesced in the decision of the cabinet 
of that day. Since I left the Department of 
State I have heard it rumored that Mr. Cal- 
houn's answer to Mr. Monroe's queries had 
been found; but I know not upon what ai> 
thority the statement was made." 



144 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



CHAPTER XXXIV. 



DEATH OF COMMODOEE KODGERS, AND NOTICE 
OF HIS LIFE AND CHAKACTEE. 



MY idea of the perfect naval commander had 
been formed from history, and from the study 
of such characters as the Von Tromps and De 
Ruyters of Holland, the Blakes of England, and 
the De Tourvilles of France men modest and 
virtuous, frank and sincere, brave and patriotic, 
gentle in peace, terrible in war ; formed for high 
command by nature ; and raising themselves to 
their proper sphere by their own exertions from 
low beginnings. When I first saw Commodore 
RODGERS, which was after I had reached sena 
torial age and station, he recalled to me the idea 
of those model admirals ; and subsequent ac 
quaintance confirmed the impression then made. 
He was to me the complete impersonation of 
my idea of the perfect naval commander per 
son, mind, and manners ; with the qualities for 
command grafted on the groundwork of a good 
citizen and good father of a family ; and all 
lodged in a frame to bespeak the seaman and 
t-ho officer. 

His very figure and face were those of the 
naval hero such as we conceive from naval 
songs and ballads ; and, from the course of life 
which the sea officer leads exposed to the 
double peril of waves and war, and contending 
with the storms of the elements as well as with 
the storm of battle. We associate the idea of 
bodily power with such a life ; and when we 
find them united the heroic qualities in a frame 
of powerful muscular development we expe 
rience a gratified feeling of completeness, which 
fulfils a natural expectation, and leaves nothing 
to be desired. And when the same great quali 
ties are found, as they often are, in the man of 
slight and slender frame, it requires some effort 
of reason to conquer a feeling of surprise at a 
combination which is a contrast, and which 
presents so much power in a frame so little 
promising it j and hence all poets and orators 
all painters and sculptors, all the dealers in im 
aginary perfections, give a corresponding figure 
of strength and force to the heroes they create. 
Commodore Rodgers needed no help from the 



creative imagination to endow him with the form 
which naval heroism might require. His person 
was of the middle height, stout, square, solid, 
compact ; well-proportioned ; and combining in 
the perfect degree the idea of strength and en 
durance with the reality of manly comeliness 
the statue of Mars, in the rough state, before the 
conscious chisel had lent the last polish. His 
face, stern in the outline, was relieved by a 
gentle and benign expression grave with the 
overshadowing of an ample and capacious fore 
head and eyebrows. Courage need not be named 
among the qualities of Americans ; the question 
would be to find one without it. His skill, en 
terprise, promptitude and talent for command, 
were shown in the war of 1812 with Great 
Britain ; in the quasi war of 1799 with the 
French Republic quasi only as it concerned 
political relations, real as it concerned desperate 
and brilliant combats at sea ; and in the Medi 
terranean wars with the Barbary States, when 
those States were formidable in that sea and 
held Europe under tribute ; and which tribute 
from the United States was relinquished by 
Tripoli and Tunis at the end of the war with 
these States Commodore Rodgers command 
ing at the time as successor to Barron and 
Preble. It was at the end of this war, 1804, so 
valiantly conducted and so triumphantly con 
cluded, that the reigning Pope, Pius the Seventh, 
publicly declared that America had done more 
for Christendom against the Barbary States, 
than all the powers of Europe combined. 

He was first lieutenant on the Constellation 
when that frigate, under Truxton, vanquished 
and captured the French frigate Insurgent; 
and great as his merit was in the action, where 
he showed himself to be the proper second to an 
able commander, it was greater in what took 
place after it ; and in which steadiness, firmness, 
humanity, vigilance, endurance, and seamanship, 
were carried to their highest pitch ; and in all 
which his honors were shared by the then strip 
ling midshipman, afterwards the brilliant Com 
modore Porter. 

The Insurgent having struck, and part of her 
crew been transferred to the Constellation, 
Lieut. Rodgers and Midshipman Porter were 
on board the prize, superintending the trans 
fer, when a tempest arose the ships parted 
and dark night came on. There were still one 
hundred and seventy-three French prisoners CD 



ANNO 1838. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



145 



board. The two young officers had but eleven 
men thirteen in all to guard thirteen times 
their number ; and work a crippled frigate at 
the same time, and get her into port. And 
nobly did they do it. For three days and nights 
did these thirteen (though fresh from a bloody 
conflict which strained every faculty and brought 
demands for rest), without sleep or repose, arm 
ed to the teeth, watching with eye and ear, stand 
to the arduous duty sailing their ship, restrain 
ing their prisoners, solacing the wounded 
ready to kill, and hurting no one. They did not 
sail at random, or for the nearest port; but, 
faithful to the orders of their commander, given 
under different circumstances, steered for St. 
Kitts, in the West Indies arrived there safely 
and were received with triumph and admira 
tion. 

Such an exploit equalled any fame that could 
be gained in battle ; for it brought into requi 
sition all the qualities for command which high 
command requires ; and foreshadowed the fu 
ture eminence of these two young officers. 
What firmness, steadiness, vigilance, endurance, 
and courage far above that which the battle 
-field reouires ! and one of these young officers, 
a slight and slender lad, as frail to the look as 
the other was powerful ; and yet each acting 
his part with the same heroic steadiness and 
perseverance, coolness and humanity ! They 
had no irons to secure a single man. The one 
hundred and seventy-three French were loose 
in the lower hold, a sentinel only at each gang 
way ; and vigilance, and readiness to use their 
arms, the only resource of the little crew. If 
history has a parallel to this deed I have not 
seen it; and to value it in all its extent, it 
must be remembered that these prisoners were 
Frenchmen their inherent courage exalted by 
the frenzy of the revolution themselves fresh 
from a murderous conflict the decks of the 
ship still red and slippery with the blood of 
their comrades ; and they with a right, both 
legal and moral, to recover their liberty if they 
could. These three days and nights, still more 
than the victory which preceded them, earned 
for Rodgers the captaincy, and for Porter the 
lieutenancy, with which they were soon respec 
tively honored. 

American cruisers had gained credit in the 
war of the Revolution, and in the quasi war with 
the French Republic ; and American squadrons 

VOL. IL 10 



had bearded the Barbary Powers in their dens, 
after chasing their piratical vessels from the 
seas : but a war with Great Britain, with her 
one thousand and sixty vessels of war on her 
naval list, and above seven hundred of these for 
service, her fleets swelled with the ships of all 
nations, exalted with the idea of invincibility, 
and one hundred and twenty guns on the decks 
of her first-class men-of-war any naval contest 
with such a power, with seventeen vessels for 
the sea, ranging from twelve to forty-four guns 
(which was the totality which the American 
naval register could then show), seemed an in 
sanity. And insanity it would have been with 
even twenty times as many vessels, and double 
their number of guns, if naval battles with rival 
fleets had been intended. Fortunately we had 
naval officers at that time who understood the 
virtue of cruising, and believed they could do 
what Paul Jones and others had done during 
the war of the Revolution. 

Political men believed nothing could be done 
at sea but to lose the few vessels which we had ; 
that even cruising was out of the question. Of 
our seventeen vessels, the whole were in port 
but one ; and it was determined to keep them 
there, and the one at sea with them, if it had 
the luck to get in. I am under no obligation to 
make the admission, but I am free to acknow 
ledge, that I was one of those who supposed 
that there was no salvation for our seventeen 
men-of-war but to run them as far up the creek 
as possible, place them under the guns of bat 
teries, and collect camps of militia about them, 
to keep off the British. This was the policy at 
the day of the declaration of the war ; and I 
have the less concern to admit myself to have 
been participator in the delusion, because I 
claim the merit of having profited from expe 
rience happy if I could transmit the lesson to 
posterity. Two officers came to Washington 
Bainbridge and Stewart. They spoke with Mr. 
Madison, and urged the feasibility of cruising. 
One-half of the whole number of the British 
men-of-war were under the class of frigates, 
consequently no more than matches for some 
of our seventeen ; the whole of her merchant 
marine (many thousands) were subject to cap 
ture. Here was a rich field for cruising ; and 
the two officers, for themselves and brothers, 
boldly proposed to enter it. 

Mr. Madison had seen the efficiency of crnis- 



146 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



ing and privateering, even against Great Britain, 
and in our then infantile condition, during the 
war of the Revolution j and besides was a man 
of sense, and amenable to judgment and reason. 
He listened to the two experienced and valiant 
officers ; and, without consulting Congress, 
which perhaps would have been a fatal con 
sultation (for multitude of counsellors is not 
the council for bold decision), reversed the 
policy which had been resolved upon ; and, in 
his supreme character of constitutional com 
mander of the army and navy, ordered every 
ship that could cruise to get to sea as soon as 
possible. This I had from Mr. Monroe, and it 
is due to Mr. Madison to tell it, who, without 
pretending to a military character, had the 
merit of sanctioning this most vital war meas 
ure. 

Commodore Rodgers was then in New York, 
in command of the President (44), intended for 
a part of the harbor defence of that city. With 
in one hour after he had received his cruising 
orders, he was under way. This was the 21st 
of June. That night he got information of the 
Jamaica fleet (merchantmen), homeward bound; 
and crowded all sail in the direction they had 
gone, following the Gulf Stream towards the 
east of Newfoundland. While on this track, on 
the 23d, a British frigate was perceived far to 
the northeast, and getting further off. It was a 
nobler object than a fleet of merchantmen, and 
chase was immediately given her, and she 
gained upon ; but not fast enough to get along 
side before night. 

It was four o'clock in the evening, and the 
enemy in range of the bow-chasers. Commodore 
Rodgers determined to cripple her, and diminish 
her speed ; and so come up with her. He point 
ed the first gun himself, and pointed it well. 
The shot struck the frigate in her rudder coat, 
drove through her stern frame, and passed into 
the gun-room. It was the first gun fired during 
the war ; and was no waste of ammunition. 
Second Lieutenant Gamble, commander of the 
battery, pointed and discharged the second 
hitting and damaging one of the enemy's stern 
chasers. Commodore Rodgers fired the third 
hitting the stern again, and killing and wound- 
Ing six men. Mr. Gamble fired again. The gun 
bursted ! killing and wounding sixteen of her 
8wn men, blowing up the Commodore who fell 
with a broken leg upon the deck. The pause 



in working the guns on that side, occasioned by 
this accident, enabled the enemy to bring some 
stern guns to bear, and to lighten his vessel to 
increase her speed. He cut away his anchors, 
stove and threw overboard his boats, and start 
ed fourteen tons of water. Thus lightened, he 
escaped. It was the Belvidera, 36 guns, Captain 
Byron. The President would have taken her 
with all ease if she had got alongside ; and of 
that the English captain showed himself duly, 
and excusably sensible. 

The frigate having escaped, the Commodore, 
regardless of his broken leg, hauled up to its 
course in pursuit of the Jamaica fleet, and soon 
got information that it consisted of eighty-five 
sail, and was under convoy of four men-of-war ; 
one of them a two-decker, another a frigate ; 
and that he was on its track. Passing New 
foundland and finding the sea well sprinkled 
with ths signs of West India fruit orange peels, 
cocoanut shells, pine-apple rinds, &c. the Com 
modore knew himself to be in the wake of the 
fleet, and made every exertion to come up with 
it before it could reach the chops of the channel: 
but in vain. When almost in sight of the Eng 
lish coast, and no glimpse obtained of the fleet> 
he was compelled to tack, run south : anil, 
after an extended cruise, return to the United 
States. 

The Commodore had missed the two great 
objects of his ambition the fleet and the frigate ; 
but the cruise was not barren either in material 
or moral results. Seven British merchantmen 
were captured one American recaptured the 
English coast had been approached. With im 
punity an American frigate one of those in 
sultingly styled " fir-built, with a bit of striped 
bunting at her mast-head," had almost looked 
into that narrow channel which is considered 
the sanctum of a British ship. An alarm had 
been spread, and a squadron of seven men-of- 
war (four of them frigates and one a sixty -four 
gun ship) were assembled to capture him ; one 
of them the Belvidera, which had escaped at the 
bursting of the President's gun, and spread the 
news of her being at sea. 

It was a great honor to Commodore Rodgers 
to send such a squadron to look after him j and 
became still greater to Captain Hull, in the 
Constitution, who escaped from it after having 
been almost surrounded by it. It was evening 
when this captain began to fall in with that 



ANNO 1839. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



147 



squadron, and at daylight found himself almost 
encompassed by it three ahead and four astern. 
Then began that chase which continued seventy- 
two hours, in which seven pursued one, and 
seemed often on the point of closing on their 
prize ; in which every means of progress, from 
reefed topsails to kedging and towing, was put 
into requisition by either party the one to 
escape, the other to overtake; in which the 
stern-chasers of one were often replying to the 
bow-chasers of the other ; and the greatest pre 
cision of manoeuvring required to avoid falling 
under the guns of some while avoiding those of 
others ; and which ended with putting an escape 
on a level with a great victory. Captain Hull 
brought his vessel safe into port, and without 
the sacrifice of her equipment not an anchor 
having been cut away, boat stove, or gun thrown 
overboard to gain speed by lightening the vessel. 
It was a brilliant result, with all the moral 
effects of victory, and a splendid vindication of 
the policy of cruising showing that we had 
seamanship to escape the force which we could 
not fight. 

Commodore Rodgers made another extended 
cruise during this war, a circuit of eight thou 
sand miles, traversing the high seas, coasting 
the shores of both continents, searching wher 
ever the cruisers or merchantmen of the enemy 
were expected to be found ; capturing what was 
within his means, avoiding the rest. A British 
government packet, with nearly $300,000 in 
specie, was taken; many merchantmen were 
taken ; and, though an opportunity did not offer 
to engage a frigate of equal or nearly equal force, 
and to gain one of those electrifying victories for 
which our cruisers were so remarkable, yet the 
moral effect was great demonstrating the am 
ple capacity of an American frigate to go where 
she pleased in spite of the " thousand ships of 
war " of the assumed mistress of the seas ; car 
rying damage and alarm to the foe, and avoiding 
misfortune to itself. 

At the attempt of the British upon Baltimore 
Commodore Rodgers was in command of the 
maritime defences of that city, and, having no 
means of contending with the British fleet in 
the bay, he assembled all the seamen of the 
ships-of-war and of the flotilla, and entered judi 
ciously into the combinations for the land de 
fence. 

Humane feeling was a characteristic of this 



brave officer, and was verified in all the relations 
of his life, and in his constant conduct. Stand 
ing on the bank of the Susquehanna river, at 
Havre de Grace, one cold winter day, the river 
flooded and filled with floating ice, he saw (with 
others), at a long distance, a living object dis 
cerned to be a human being carried down the 
stream. He ventured in, against all remon 
strance, and brought the object safe to shore. 
It was a colored woman to him a human being, 
doomed to a frightful death unless relieved ; and 
heroically rcJeved at the peril of his own life. 
He was humane in battle. That was shown in 
the affair of the Little Belt chased, hailed, 
fought (the year before the war), and compelled 
to answer the hail, and tell who she was, with 
expense of blood, and largely; but still the 
smallest possible quantity that would accom 
plish the purpose. The encounter took place in 
the night, and because the British captain would 
not answer the American hail. Judging from 
the inferiority of her fire that he was engaged 
with an unequal antagonist, the American Com 
modore suspended his own fire, while still re 
ceiving broadsides from his arrogant little adver 
sary ; and only resumed it when indispensable 
to his own safety, and the enforcement of the 
question which he had put. An answer was 
obtained after thirty-one had been killed or 
wounded on board the British vessel ; and this 
at six leagues from the American coast : and, 
the doctrine of no right to stop a vessel on the 
high seas to ascertain her character not having 
been then invented, no political consequence 
followed this bloody enforcement of maritime 
police exasperated against each other as the 
two nations were at the time. 

At the death of Decatur, killed in that la 
mentable duel, I have heard Mr. Randolph tell, 
and he alone could tell it, of the agony of Rod 
gers as he stood over his dying friend, in bodily 
contention with his own grief convulsed with 
in, calm without ; and keeping down the strug 
gling anguish of the soul by dint of muscular 
power. 

That feeling heart was doomed to suffer a. 
great agony in the untimely death of a heroic 
son, emulating the generous devotion of the 
father, and perishing in the waves, in vain efforts 
to save comrades more exhausted than himself; 
and to whom he nobly relinquished the means 
of his own safety. It was spared another grief 



148 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



of a kindred nature (not having lived to see it), 
in the death of another heroic son, lost in the 
sloop-of-war Albany, in one of those calamitous 
founderings at sea in which the mystery of an 
unseen fate deepens the shades of death, and 
darkens the depths of sorrow leaving the 
hearts of far distant friends a prey to a long 
agony of hope and fear only to be solved in 
an agony still deeper. 

Commodore Rodgers died at the head of the 
American navy, without having seen the rank 
of Admiral established in our naval service, for 
which I voted when senator, and hoped to have 
seen conferred on him, and on others who have 
done so much to exalt the name of their coun 
try ; and which rank I deem essential to the 
good of the service, even in the cruising system 
I deem alone suitable to us. 



CHAPTER XXXV. 

ANTI-DUELLING ACT. 

THE death of Mr. Jonathan Cilley, a represen 
tative in Congress from the State of Maine, 
killed in a duel with rifles, with Mr. Graves of 
Kentucky, led to the passage of an act with 
severe penalties against duelling, in the District 
of Columbia, or out of it upon agreement within 
the District. The penalties were death to all 
the survivors, when any one was killed : a five 
years imprisonment in the penitentiary for giv 
ing or accepting a challenge. Like all acts 
passed under a sudden excitement, this act was 
defective, and more the result of good intentions 
than of knowledge of human nature. Passions 
of the mind, like diseases of the body, are liable 
to break out in a different form when suppressed 
in the one they had assumed. No physician 
suppresses an eruption without considering what 
is to become of the virus which is escaping, if 
stopped and confined to the body : no legisla 
tor should suppress an evil without considering 
whether a worse one is at the same time planted. 
I was a young member of the general assembly 
of Tennessee (1809), when a most worthy mem 
ber (Mr. Robert C. Foster), took credit to him 
self for having put down billiard tables in Nash 
ville. Another most worthy member (General 



Joseph Dixon) asked him how many card tables 
he had put up in their place ? This was a side of 
the account to which the suppressor of billiard 
tables had not looked : and which opened up a 
view of serious consideration to every person in 
trusted with the responsible business of legisla 
tion a business requiring so much knowledge of 
human nature, and so seldom invoking the little 
we possess. It has been on my mind ever since ; 
and I have had constant occasions to witness its 
disregard and seldom more lamentably than in 
the case of this anti-duelling act. It looked to 
one evil, and saw nothing else. It did not look 
to the assassinations, under the pretext of self- 
defence, which were to rise up in place of the 
regular duel. Certainly it is deplorable to see 
a young man, the hope of his father and mother 
a ripe man, the head of a family an eminent 
man, necessary to his country struck down in 
the duel ; and should be prevented if possible. 
Still this deplorable practice is not so bad as the 
bowie knife, and the revolver, and their pretext 
of self-defence thirsting for blood. In the 
duel, there is at least consent on both sides, 
with a preliminary opportunity for settlement, 
with a chance for the law to arrest them, and 
room for the interposition of friends as the 
affair goes on. There is usually equality of 
terms j and it would not be called an affair of 
honor, if honor was not to prevail all round ; 
and if the satisfying a point of honor, and not 
vengeance, was the end to be attained. Finally, 
in the regular duel, the principals are in the 
hands of the seconds (for no man can bo made 
a second without his consent) ; and as both 
these are required by the duelling code (for the 
sake of fairness and humanity), to be free from 
ill will or grudge towards the adversary prin 
cipal, they are expected to terminate the affair 
as soon as the point of honor is satisfied and, 
the less the injury, so much the better. The 
only exception to these rules is, where tho 
principals are in such relations to each other as 
to admit of no accommodation, and the injury 
such as to admit of no compromise. In the 
knife and revolver business, all this is different. 
There is no preliminary interval for settlement- 
no chance for officers of justice to intervene no 
room for friends to interpose. Instead of equal 
ity of terms, every advantage is sought. Instead 
of consent, the victim is set upon at the most 
unguarded moment. Instead of satisfying a 



ANNO 1839. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



149 



point of honor, it is yengeance to be glutted. 
Nor does the difference stop with death. In 
the duel, the unhurt principal scorns to continue 
the combat upon his disabled adversary : in the 
knife and revolver case, the hero of these weap 
ons continues firing and stabbing while the 
prostrate body of the dying man gives a sign of 
life. In the duel the survivor never assails the 
character of the fallen : in the knife and revol 
ver case, the first movement of the victor is to 
attack the character of his victim to accuse 
him of an intent to murder ; and to make out a 
case of self-defence, by making out a case of 
premeditated attack against the other. And in 
such false accusation, the French proverb is 
usually verified the dead and the absent are 
always in the wrong. 

The anti-duelling act did not suppress the 
passions in which duels originate : it only sup 
pressed one mode, and that the least revolting, in 
which these passions could manifest themselves. 
It did not suppress the homicidal intent but 
gave it a new form : and now many members of 
Congress go into their seats with deadly weapons 
under their garments ready to insult with foul 
language, and prepared to kill if the language is 
resented. The act should have pursued the 
homicidal intent into whatever form it might 
assume ; and, therefore, should have been made 
to include all unjustifiable homicides. 

The law was also mistaken in the nature of 
its penalties : they are not of a kind to be en 
forced, if incurred. It is in vain to attempt to 
punish more ignominiously, and more severely, 
a duel than an assassination. The offences, 
though both great, are of very different degrees ; 
and human nature will recognize the difference 
though the law may not : and the result will 
be seen in the conduct of juries, and in the tem 
per of the pardoning power. A species of pen 
alty unknown to the common law, and rejected 
by it, and only held good when a man was the 
vassal of his lord the dogma that the private 
injury to the family is merged in the public 
wrong this species of penalty (amends to the 
family) is called for by the progress of homi 
cides in our country; and not as a substitute for 
the death penalty, but cumulative. Under this 
dogma, a small injury to a man's person brings 
him a moneyed indemnity ; in the greatest of all 
injuries, that of depriving a family of its sup 
port and protector, no compensation is allowed. 



This is preposterous, and leads to deadly con 
sequences. It is cheaper now to kill a man, 
than to hurt him ; and, accordingly, the prep 
aration is generally to kill, and not to hurt. 
The frequency, the wantonness, the barbarity, 
the cold-blooded cruelty, and the demoniac levi 
ty with which homicides are committed with 
us, have become the opprobrium of our country. 
An incredible number of persons, and in all parts 
of the country, seem to have taken the code of 
Draco for their law, and their own will for its 
execution kill for every offence. The death 
penalty, prescribed by divine wisdom, is hardly 
a scare-crow. Some States have abolished it 
by statute some communities, virtually, by a 
mawkish sentimentality : and every where, the 
jury being the judge of the law as well as of the 
fact, find themselves pretty much in a condition 
to do as they please. And unanimity among 
twelve being required, as in the English law, 
instead of a concurrence of three-fifths in fif 
teen, as in the Scottish law, it is in the power 
of one or two men to prevent a conviction, even 
in the most flagrant cases. In this deluge of 
bloodshed some new remedy is called for in ad 
dition to the death penalty ; and it may be best 
found in the principle of compensation to the 
family of the slain, recoverable in every case 
where the homicide was not justifiable under 
the written laws of the land. In this wide 
spread custom of carrying deadly weapons, often 
leading to homicides where there was no pre 
vious intent, some check should be put on a 
practice so indicative of a bad heart a heart 
void of social duty, and fatally bent on mis 
chief; and this check may be found in making 
the fact of having such arms on the person an 
offence in itself, prima facie evidence of malice, 
and to be punished cumulatively by the judge ; 
and that without regard to the fact whether 
used or not in the affray. 

The anti-duelling act of 1839 was, there 
fore, defective in not pursuing the homicidal 
offence into all the new forms it might assume ; 
in not giving damages to a bereaved family 
and not punishing the carrying of the weapon, 
whether used or not only accommodating tha 
degree of punishment to the more or less 
use that had been made of it. In the Halls 
of Congress it should be an offence, in it 
self, whether drawn or not, subjecting the of 
fender to all the penalties for a high misde- 



150 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



meaner removal from office disqualification 
to hold any office of trust or profit under the 
United States and indictment at law besides. 



CHAPTER XXXVI. 

SLAVERY AGITATION IN THE HOUSE OF REPRE- 
SENTATIVES, AND RETIRING OF SOUTHERN 
MEMBERS FROM THE HALL. 

THE most angry and portentous debate which 
had yet taken place in Congress, occurred at 
this time in the House of Representatives. It 
was brought on by Mr. William Slade, of Ver 
mont, who, besides presenting petitions of the 
usual abolition character, and moving to refer 
them to a committee, moved their reference to a 
select committee, with instructions to report a bill 
in conformity to their prayer. This motion, in 
flammatory and irritating in itself, and without 
practical legislative object, as the great majority 
of the House was known to be opposed to it, 
was rendered still more exasperating by the 
manner of supporting it. The mover entered 
into a general disquisition on the subject of 
slavery, all denunciatory, and was proceeding to 
speak upon it in the State of Virginia, and other 
States, in the same spirit, when Mr. Legare, of 
South Carolina, interposed, and 

" Hoped the gentleman from Vermont would 
allow him to make a few remarks before he 
proceeded further. He sincerely hoped that 
gentleman would consider well what he was 
about before he ventured on such ground, and 
that he would take time to consider what might 
be its probable consequences. He solemnly en 
treated him to reflect on the possible results of 
such a course, which involved the interests of a 
nation and a continent. He would warn him, 
not in the language of defiance, which all brave 
and wise men despised, but he would warn him 
in the language of a solemn sense of duty, that 
if there was ' a spirit aroused in the North in 
relation to this subject,' that spirit would en 
counter another spirit in the South full as 
stubborn. He would tell them that, when this 
question was forced upon the people of the 
South, they would be ready to take up the 
gauntlet. He concluded by urging on the gen 
tleman from Vermont to ponder well on his 
course before he ventured to proceed." 

Mr. Slade continued his remarks when Mr. 
Dawson of Georgia, asked him for the floor, 



that he might move an adjournment evidentlj 
to carry off the storm which he saw rising. Mr 
Slade refused to yield it j so the motion to ad 
journ could not be made. Mr. Slade continued, 
and was proceeding to answer his own inquiry 
put to himself what was Slavery ? when Mr, 
Dawson again asked for the floor, to make 
his motion of adjournment. Mr. Slade refused 
it: a visible commotion began to pervade tho 
House members rising, clustering together, 
and talking with animation. Mr. Slade con 
tinued, and was about reading a judicial opinion 
in one of the Southern States which defined a 
slave to be a chattel when Mr. Wise called 
him to order for speaking beside the question 
the question being upon the abolition of slavery 
in the District of Columbia, and Mr. Slade's re 
marks going to its legal character, as property 
in a State. The Speaker, Mr. John White, of 
Kentucky, sustained the call, saying it was not 
in order to discuss the subject of slavery in any 
of the States. Mr. Slade denied that he was 
doing so, and said he was merely quoting a South 
ern judicial decision as he might quote a legal 
opinion delivered in Great Britain. Mr. Robert 
son, of Virginia, moved that the House adjourn. 
The Speaker pronounced the motion (and cor 
rectly), out of order, as the member from Ver 
mont was in possession of the floor and address 
ing the House. He would, however, suggest 
to the member from Vermont, who could not 
but observe the state of the House, to confine 
himself strictly to the subject of his motion. 
Mr. Slade went on at great length, when Mr. 
Petrikin, of Pennsylvania, called him to order ; 
but the Chair did not sustain the call. Mr. 
Slade went on, quoting from the Declaration of 
Independence, and the constitutions of the several 
States, and had got to that of Virginia, when 
Mr. Wise called him to order for reading papers 
without the leave of the House. The Speaker 
decided that no paper, objected to, could be read 
without the leave of the House. Mr. Wise 
then said : 

" That the gentleman had wantonly discussed 
the abstract question of slavery, going back to 
the very first day of the creation, instead of 
slavery as it existed in the District, and the 
powers and duties of Congress in relation to it. 
He was now examining the State constitutions 
to show that as it existed in the States it was 
against them, and against the laws of God and 
man. This was out of order." 



ANNO 1839. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



151 



Mr. Slade explained, and argued in vindica 
tion of his course, and was about to read a me 
morial of Dr. Franklin, and an opinion of Mr. 
Madison on the subject of slavery when the 
reading was objected to by Mr. Griffin, of South 
Carolina ; and the Speaker decided they could 
not be read without the permission of the House. 
Mr. Slade, without asking the permission of the 
House, which he knew would not be granted, 
assumed to understand the prohibition as ex 
tending only to himself personally, said 
" TJien I send them to the clerk : let him read 
them." The Speaker decided that this was 
equally against the rule. Then Mr. Griffin 
withdrew the objection, and Mr. Slade proceed 
ed to read the papers, and to comment upon 
them as he went on, and was about to go back 
to the State of Virginia, and show what had 
been the feeling there on the subject of slavery 
previous to the date of Dr. Franklin's memorial : 
Mr. Ilhett, of South Carolina, inquired of the 
Chair what the opinions of Virginia fifty years 
ago had to do with the case ? The Speaker was 
about to reply, when Mr. Wise rose with 
warmth, and said " He has discussed the 
whole abstract question of slavery : of slavery 
in Virginia : of slavery in my own district : and 
I now ask all my colleagues to retire with me 
from this hall." Mr. Slade reminded the 
Speaker that he had not yielded the floor ; but 
his progress was impeded by the condition of 
the House, and the many exclamations of mem 
bers, among whom Mr. Halse} r , of Georgia, was 
heard calling on the Georgia delegation to with 
draw witl Aim ; and Mr. Ehett was heard pro 
claiming, that the South Carolina members had 
already consulted together, and agreed to have 
a meeting at three o'clock in the committee 
room of the District of Columbia. Here the 
Speaker interposed to calm the House, standing 
up in his place and saying : 

" The gentleman from Vermont had been re 
minded by the Chair that the discussion of 
slavery, as existing within the States, was not 
in order ; when he was desirous to read a paper 
and it was objected to, the Chair had stopped 
him ; but the objection had been withdrawn, and 
Mr. Slade had been suffered to proceed j he was 
now about to read another paper, and objection 
was made ; the Chair would, therefore, take the 
question on permitting it to be read." 

Many members rose, all addressing the Chair 
at the same time, and many members leaving 



the hall, and a general scene of noise and con 
fusion prevailing. Mr. Ehett succeeded in rais 
ing his voice above the roar of the tempest which 
raged in the House, and invited the entire dele 
gations from all the slave States to retire from 
the hall forthwith, and meet in the committee 
room of the District of Columbia. The Speaker 
again essayed to calm the House, and again 
standing up in his place, he recapitulated his 
attempts to preserve order, and vindicated the 
correctness of his own conduct seemingly im 
pugned by many. " What his personal feelings 
were on the subject (he was from a slave State), 
might easily be conjectured. He had endeavor 
ed to enforce the rules. Had it been in his power 
to restrain the discussion, he should promptly 
have exercised the power ; but it was not. Mr. 
Slade, continuing, said the paper which he 
wished to read was of the continental Congress 
of 1774. The Speaker was about to put the 
question on leave, when Mr. Cost Johnson, of 
Maryland, inquired whether it would be in 
order to force the House to vote that the mem 
ber from Vermont be not permitted to proceed? 
The Speaker replied it would not. Then Mr. 
James J. McKay, of North Carolina a clear, 
coolheaded, sagacious man interposed the ob 
jection which headed Mr. Slade. There was a 
rule of the House, that when a member was 
called to order, he should take his seat ; and ii 
decided to be out of order, he should not be 
allowed to speak again, except on the leave ol 
the House. Mr. McKay judged this to be a 
proper occasion for the enforcement of that rule ; 
and stood up and said : 

" That the gentleman had been pronounced 
out of order in discussing slavery in the States ; 
and the rule declared that when a member was 
so pronounced by the Chair, he should take his 
seat, and if any one objected to his proceeding 
again, he should not do so, unless by leave of 
the House. Mr. McKay did r.ow object to the 
gentleman from Vermont proceeding any far 
ther." 

Redoubled noise and confusion ensued a 
crowd of members rising and speaking at once 
who eventually yielded to the resounding 
blows of the Speaker's hammer upon the lid 
of his desk, and his apparent desire to read 
something to the House, as he held a book (re 
cognized to be that of the rules) in his hand 
Obtaining quiet, so as to enable himself to be 
heard, he read the rule referred to by Mr. Me- 



152 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



Kay j and said that, as objection had now, for 
the first time, been made under that rule to the 
gentleman's resuming his speech, the Chair 
decided that he could not do so without the 
leave of the House. Mr. Slade attempted to go 
on : the Speaker directed him to take his seat 
until the question of leave should be put. 
Then, Mr. Slade, still keeping on his feet, asked 
leave to proceed as in order, saying he would 
not discuss slavery in Virginia. On that ques 
tion Mr. Allen, of Vermont, asked the yeas and 
nays. Mr. Rencher, of North Carolina, moved 
an adjournment. Mr. Adams, and many others, 
demanded the yeas and nays on this motion, 
which were ordered, and resulted in 106 yeas, 
and 63 nays some fifty or sixty members hav 
ing withdrawn. This opposition to adjourn 
ment was one of the worst features of that un 
happy day's work the only effect of keeping 
the House together being to increase irritation, 
and multiply the chances for an outbreak. 
From the beginning Southern members had 
been in favor of it, and essayed to accomplish it, 
but were prevented by the tenacity with which 
Mr. Slade kept possession of the floor : and 
now, at last, when it was time to adjourn 
any way when the House was in a condition 
in which no good could be expected, and great 
harm might be apprehended, there were sixty- 
three members being nearly one-third of the 
House willing to continue it in session. They 
were: 

" Messrs. Adams, Alexander, H. Allen, J. W. 
Allen, Aycrigg, Bell, Biddle, Bond, Borden, 
Briggs, Wm. B. Calhoun, Coffin, Cor win, Cran 
ston, Curtis, Gushing, Darlington, Davies, Dunn, 
Evans, Everett, Ewhig I. Fletcher, Fillmore, 
Goode, Grennell, Haley, Hall, Hastings, Henry, 
Herod, Hoffman, Lincoln, Marvin, S. Mason, 
Maxwell, McKennan, Milligan, M. Morris, C. 
Morris, Naylor, Noyes, Ogle, Parmenter, Patter 
son, Peck, Phillips, Potts, Potter, Rariden, Ran 
dolph, Reed, Ridgway, Russel, Sheffer, Sibley, 
Slade, Stratton, Tillinghast, Toland, A. S. White, 
J. White, E. Whittlesey 63." 

The House then stood adjourned ; and as the 
adjournment was being pronounced, Mr. Camp 
bell of South Carolina, stood up on a chair, and 
calling for the attention of members, said : 

" He had been appointed, as one of the Southern 
delegation, to announce that all those gentlemen 
who represented slaveholding States, were in 
vited to attend the meeting now being held in 
the District committee room." . 



Members from the slave-holding States had 
repaired in large numbers to the room in the 
basement, where they were invited to meet. 
Various passions agitated them some violent 
Extreme propositions were suggested, of which 
Mr. Rhett, of South Carolina, in a letter to his 
constituents, gave a full account of his own 
thus : 

" In a private and friendly letter to the editor 
of the Charleston Mercury amongst other events 
accompanying the memorable secession of the 
Southern members from the hall of the House 
of Representatives, I stated to him, that I had 
prepared two resolutions, drawn as amendments 
to the motion of the member from Vermont, 
whilst he was discussing the institution of 
slavery in the South, ' declaring, that the con 
stitution having failed to protect the South in 
the peaceable possession and enjoyment of their 
rights and peculiar institutions, it was expedient 
that the Union should be dissolved ; and the 
other, appointing a committee of two members 
from each State, to report upon the best means 
of peaceably dissolving it.' They were intended 
as amendments to a motion, to refer with in 
structions to report a bill, abolishing slavery in 
the District of Columbia. I expected them to 
share the fate, which inevitably awaited the 
original motion, so soon as the floor could have 
been obtained, viz., to be laid upon the table. 
My design in presenting them, was, to place 
before Congress and the people, what, in my 
opinion, was the true issue upon this great and 
vital question ; and to point out the course of 
policy by which it should be met by the South 
ern States." 

But extreme counsels did not prevail. There 
were members present, who well considered 
that, although the provocation was great, and 
the number voting for such a firebrand motion 
was deplorably large, yet it was but little more 
than the one-fourth of the House, and decidedly 
less than one half of the members from the free 
States : so that, even if left to the free State 
vote alone, the motion would have been rejected. 
But the motion itself, and the manner in which 
it was supported, was most reprehensible 
necessarily leading to disorder in the House, 
the destruction of its harmony and capacity for 
useful legislation, tending to a sectional segre 
gation of the members, the alienation of feeling 
between the North and the South ; and alarm 
to all the slaveholding States. The evil required 
a remedy, but not the remedy of breaking up 
the Union ; but one which might prevent the 
like in future, while administering a rebuke 
upon the past. That remedy was found ia 



ANNO 1838. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



153 



adopting a proposition to be offered to the 
House, which, if agreed to, would close the 
door against any discussion upon abolition peti 
tions in future, and assimilate the proceedings 
of the House, in that particular, to those of 
the Senate. This proposition was put into the 
hands of Mr. Patton, of Virginia, to be offered 
as an amendment to the rules at the opening of 
the House the next morning. It was in these 
words : 

" Resolved, That all petitions, memorials, and 
papers, touching the abolition of slavery or the 
buying, selling, or transferring of slaves, in any 
State, District, or Territory, o>" the United States, 
be laid on the table, without being debated, 
printed, read, or referred, and that no further 
action whatever shall be had thereon." 

Accordingly, at the opening of the House, Mr. 
Patton asked leave to submit the resolution 
which was read for information. Mr. Adams 
objected to the grant of leave. Mr. Patton then 
moved a suspension of the rules which motion 
required two-thirds to sustain it; and, unless 
obtained, this salutary remedy for an alarming 
evil (which was already in force in the Senate) 
could not be offered. It was a test motion, and 
on which the opponents of abolition agitation in 
the House required all their strength : for 
unless two to one, they were defeated. Happily 
the two to one were ready, and on taking the 
yeas and nays, demanded by an abolition member 
(to keep his friends to the track, and to hold the 
free State anti-abolitionists to their responsi 
bility at home), the result stood 135 yeas to 60 
nays the full two-thirds, and fifteen over. The 
yeas on this important motion, were : 

Messrs. Hugh J. Anderson, John T. An 
drews, Charles G. Atherton, William Beatty, 
Andrew Beirne, John Bell, Bennet Bicknell, 
Ilichard Biddle, Samuel Birdsall, Ratliff Boon, 
James W. Bouldin, John 0. Brodhead, Isaac H. 
Bronson, Andrew D. W. Bruyn, Andrew Bu 
chanan, John Calhoun, C. C. Cambreleng, Wm. 

B. Campbell, John Campbell, Timothy J. Car 
ter, Wm. B. Carter, Zadok Casey, John Cham 
bers, John Chaney, Reuben Chapman, Richard 
Cheatham, Jonathan Cilley, John F. H. Clai- 
borne, Jesse F. Cleaveland, Wm. K. Clowney, 
Walter Coles, Thomas Corwin, Robert Craig. 
John W. Crocket, Samuel Cushman, Edmund 
Deberry, John I. De Graff, 'John Dennis, George 

C. Dromgoole, John Edwards, James Farring- 
ton, John Fairfield, Jacob Fry, jr., James Gar 
land, James Graham, Seaton Grantland, Abr'm 
P. Grant, William J. Graves. Robert H. Ham 



mond, Thomas L. Hamer, James Harlan, Albert 
G. Harrison, Richard Hawes, Micajah T. Haw 
kins, Charles E. Haynes, Hopkins Holsey, Or- 
rin Holt, George W. Hopkins, Benjamin C, 
Howard, Edward B. Hubley, Jabez Jackson, 
Joseph Johnson, Wm. Cost Johnson, John W, 
Jones, Gouverneur Kemble, Daniel Kilgore, 
John Klingensmith, jr., Joab Lawler, Hugh S. 
Legare, Henry Logan. Francis S. Lyon, Francis 
Mallory, James M. Mason, Joshua L. Martin, 
Abram'P. Maury, Wm. L. May, James J. Mc~ 
Kay. Robert McClellan, Abraham McClelland. 
Charles McClure, Isaac McKim, Richard Hi 
Menefee, Charles F. Mercer, Wm. Montgomery, 
Ely Moore, Wm. S. Morgan, Samuel W. Mor 
ris, Henry A. Muhlenberg, John L. Murray 
Wm. H. Noble, John Palmer, Amasa J. Parker, 
John M. Patton, Lemuel Paynter, Isaac S. 
Pennybacker, David Petrikin, Lancelot Phelps, 
Arnold Plumer, Zadock Pratt, John H. Pren- 
tiss, Luther Reily, Abraham Rencher, John 
Robertson, Samuel T. Sawyer, Augustine H. 
Shepperd, Charles Shepard, Ebenezer J. 
Shields, Matthias Sheplor, Francis 0. J. Smith, 
Adam W. Snyder, Wm. W. Southgate, James 
B. Spencer, Edward Stanly, Archibald Stuart, 
\Vm. Stone, John Taliaferro, Wm. Taylor, Oba- 
diah Titus, Isaac Toucey, Hopkins L. Turney, 
Joseph R. Underwood, Henry Vail, David D. 
Wagener, Taylor Webster, Joseph Weeks, Al 
bert S. White, John White, Thomas T. Whittle- 
sey, Lewis Williams, Sherrod Williams, Jared 
W. Williams, Joseph L. Williams, Christ'r H, 
Williams, Henry A. Wise, Archibald Yell. 

The nays were : 

Messrs. John Quincy Adams, James Alex 
ander, jr., Hem an Allen, John W. Allen, J. 
Banker Aycrigg, Wm. Key Bond, Nathaniel B. 
Borden, George N. Briggs, Wm. B. Calhoun, 
Charles D. Coffin, Robert B. Cranston, Caleb 
Gushing, Edward Darlington, Thomas Davee, 
Edward Davies, Alexander Duncan, George H. 
Dunn, George Evans, Horace Everett, John 
Ewing, Isaac Fletcher, Millard Filmore, Henry 
A. Foster, Patrick G. Goode, George Grennell, 
jr., Elisha Haley, Hiland Hall, Alexander Har 
per, Wm. S. Hastings, Thomas Henry, Wm. 
Herod, Samuel Ingham, Levi Lincoln, Richard 
P. Marvin, Samson Mason, John P. B. Maxwell, 
Thos. M. T. McKennan, Mathias Morris, Cal 
vary Morris, Charles Naylor, Joseph C. Noyes, 
Charles Ogle, Wm. Parmenter, Wm. Patterson, 
Luther C. Peck, Stephen C. Phillips, David 
Potts, jr., James Rariden, Joseph F. Randolph, 
John Reed, Joseph Ridgway, David Russell 
Daniel Shefier, Mark H. Sibley, Wm. Slade - 
Charles C. Stratton, Joseph L. Tillinghast, 
George W. Toland, Elisha Whittlesey, Thomas 
Jones Yorke. 

This was one of the most important yotea 
ever delivered in the House. Upon its issue de 
pended the quiet of the House on one hand, or 



154 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



3n the other, the renewal, and perpetuation of the 
scenes of the day before ending in breaking up 
all deliberation, and all national legislation. It 
was successful, and that critical step being safely 
over, the passage of the resolution was secured 
the free State friendly vote being itself sufficient 
to caiTy it but, although the passage of the reso 
lution was secured, yet resistance to it continued. 
Mr. Patton rose to recommend his resolution as 
a peace offering, and to prevent further agitation 
by demanding the previous question. He said : 

" He had offered this resolution in the spirit 
of peace and harmony. It involves (said Mr. 
P.), so far as I am concerned, and so far as con 
cerns some portion of the representatives of the 
slaveholding States, a concession ; a concession 
which we make for the sake of peace, harmony, 
and union. We offer it in the hope that it 
may allay, not exasperate excitement ; we desire 
to extinguish, not to kindle a fiame in the coun 
try. In that spirit, sir, without saying one 
word in the way of discussion ; without giving 
utterance to any of those emotions which swell 
in my bosom at the recollection of what took 
place here yesterday, I shall do what I have 
never yet done since I have been a member of 
this House, and which I have very rarely sus 
tained, when done by others : I move the pre 
vious question." 

Then followed a scene of disorder, which thus 
appears in the Kegister of Debates : 

" Mr. Adams rose and said . Mr. Speaker, the 
gentleman precedes his resolution f Loud cries 
of ' Order ! order ! ' from all parts of the hall.) 
Mr. A. He preceded it with remarks (' Order ! 
order!') 

" The Chair reminded the gentleman that it 
was out of order to address the House after the 
demand for the previous question. 

" Mr. Adams. I ask the House (continued 
cries of ' Order ! ' which completely drowned the 
honorable member's voice.)" 

Order having been restored, the next question 
was " Is the demand for the previous question 
seconded ? " which seconding would consist of 
a majority of the whole House which, on a 
division, quickly showed itself. Then came the 
further question " Shall the main question be 
now put ? " on which the yeas and nays were 
demanded, and taken ; and ended in a repeti 
tion of the vote of the same 63 against it. The 
main question was then put, and carried ; but 
again, on yeas and nays, to hold free State mem 
bers to their responsibility ; showing the same 
53 in the negative, with a few additional votes 



from free State members, who, having staked 
themselves on the vital point of suspending th* 
rules, saw no use in giving themselves further 
trouble at home, by giving an unnecessary vote 
in favor of stifling abolition debate. In this 
way, the ranks of the 63 were increased to 74. 

Thus was stifled, and in future prevented in 
the House, the inflammatory debates on these 
disturbing petitions. It was the great session 
of their presentation being offered by hun 
dreds, and signed by hundreds of thousands of 
persons many of them women, who forgot their 
sex and their duties, to mingle in such inflam 
matory work ; some of them clergymen, who 
forgot their mission of peace, to stir up strife 
among those who should be brethren. Of the 
pertinacious 63, who backed Mr. Slade through 
out, the most notable were Mr. Adams, who 
had been President of the United States Mr. 
Fillmore, who became so and Mr. Caleb Cush- 
ing, who eventually became as ready to abolish 
all impediments to the general diffusion of 
slavery, as he then was to abolish slavery itself 
in the District of Columbia. It was a porten 
tous contest. The motion of Mr. Slade was, not 
for an inquiry into the expediency of abolishing 
slavery in the District of Columbia (a motion 
in itself sufficiently inflammatory), but to get 
the command of the House to bring in a bill for 
that purpose which would be a decision of the 
question. His motion failed. The storm sub 
sided ; and very few of the free State members 
who had staked themselves on the issue, lost any 
thing among their constituents for the devotion 
which they had shown to the Union. 



CHAPTER XXXVII. 

ABOLITIONISTS CLASSIFIED BY MB. CLAY UL 
TRAS DENOUNCED: SLAVEEY AGITATORS 
NORTH AND SOUTH EQUALLY DENOUNCKP 
AS DANGEROUS TO THE UNION. 

" IT is well known to the Senate, said Mr. Clay, 
that I have thought that the most judicious 
course with abolition petitions has not been of 
late pursued by Congress. I have believed that 
it would have been wisest to have received and 
referred them, without opposition, and to have 
reported against their object in a calm and dis 
passionate and argumentative appeal to the 



ANNO 1838. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT 



155 



good sense of the whole community. It has 
been supposed, however, by a majority of Con 
gress that it was most expedient either not to 
receive the petitions at all, or, if formally re 
ceived, not to act definitively upon them. 
There is no substantial difference between these 
opposite opinions, since both look to an abso 
lute rejection of the prayer of the petitioners. 
But there is a great difference in the form of 
proceeding ; and. Mr. President, some experi 
ence in the conduct of human affairs has taught 
me to believe that a neglect to observe estab 
lished forms is often attended with more mis 
chievous consequences than the infliction of a 
positive injury. We all know that, even in 
private life, a violation of the existing usages 
and ceremonies of society cannot take place 
without serious prejudice. I fear, sir, that the 
abolitionists have acquired a considerable appa 
rent force by blending with the object which 
they have in view a collateral and totally dif 
ferent question arising out of an alleged viola 
tion of the right of petition. I know full well, 
and take great pleasure in testifying, that 
nothing was remoter from the intention of the 
majority of the Senate, from which I differed, 
than to violate the right of petition in any case 
in which, according to its judgment, that right 
could be constitutionally exercised, or where 
the object of the petition could be safely or 
properly granted. Still, it must be owned that 
the abolitionists have seized hold of the fact of 
the treatment which their petitions have re 
ceived in Congress, and made injurious impres 
sions upon the minds of a large portion of the 
community. This, I think, might have been 
avoided by the course which I should have been 
glad to have seen pursued. 

" And I desire now, Mr. President, to advert 
to some of those topics which I think might 
have been usefully embodied in a report by a 
committee of the Senate, and which, I am per 
suaded, would have checked the progress, if it 
had not altogether arrested the efforts of aboli 
tion. I am sensible, sir, that this work would 
have been accomplished with much greater abil 
ity, and with much happier effect, under the 
auspices of a committee, than it can be by me. 
But, anxious as I always am to contribute 
whatever is in my power to the harmony, con 
cord, and happiness of this great people, I feel 
myself irresistibly impelled to do whatever is 
in my power, incompetent as I feel myself to 
be, to dissuade the public from continuing to 
agitate a subject fraught with the most direful 
consequences. 

" There are three classes of persons opposed, 
or apparently opposed, to the continued exist 
ence of slavery in the United States. The first 
are those who, from sentiments of philanthropy 
and humanity, are conscientiously opposed to 
the existence of slavery, but who are no less 
opposed, at the same time, to any disturbance 
of the peace and tranquillity of the Union, or 
the infringement of the powers of the States 



composing the confederacy. In this class may 
be comprehended that peaceful and exemplary 
society of ' Friends,' one of whose established 
maxims is, an abhorrence of war in all its 
forms, and the cultivation of peace and good 
will amongst mankind. The next class consists 
of apparent abolitionists that is, those who, 
having been persuaded that the right of peti 
tion has been violated by Congress, co-operate 
with the abolitionists for the sole purpose of as 
serting and vindicating that right. And the 
third class are the real ultra-abolitionists, who 
are resolved to persevere in the pursuit of their 
object at all hazards, and without regard to any 
consequences, however calamitous they may be. 
With them the rights of property are nothing ; 
the deficiency of the powers of the general gov- 
erment is nothing ; the acknowledged and in 
contestable powers of the States are nothing : 
civil war, a dissolution of the Union, and the 
overthrow of a government in which are con 
centrated the fondest hopes of the civilized 
world, are nothing. A single idea has taken 
possession of their minds, and onward they pur 
sue it, overlooking all barriers, reckless and re 
gardless of all consequences. With this class, 
the immediate abolition of slavery in the Dis 
trict of Columbia, and in the territory of Flori 
da, the prohibition of the removal of slaves from 
State to State, and the refusal to admit any new 
State, comprising within its limits the institu 
tion of domestic slavery, are but so many means 
conducing to the accomplishment of the ulti 
mate but perilous end at which they avowedly 
and boldly aim ; are but so many short stages 
in the long and bloody road to the distant goal 
at which they would finally arrive. Their pur 
pose is abolition, universal abolition, peaceably 
if it can, forcibly if it must. Their object is no 
longer concealed by the thinnest veil ; it is 
avowed and proclaimed. Utterly destitute of 
constitutional or other rightful power, living 
in totally distinct communities, as alien to the 
communities in which the subject on which 
they would operate resides, so far as concerns 
political power over that subject, as if they 
lived in Africa or Asia, they nevertheless pro 
mulgate to the world their purpose to be to 
manumit forthwith, and without compensation, 
and without moral preparation, three millions 
of negro slaves, under jurisdictions altogether 
separated from those under which they live. 

"I have said that immediate abolition ol 
slavery in the District of Columbia and in the 
territory of Florida, and the exclusion of new 
States, were only means towards the attainment 
of a much more important end. Unfortunately, 
they are not the only means. Another, and 
much more lamentable one is that which this 
class is endeavoring to employ, of arraying one 
portion against another portion of the Union. 
With that view, in all their leading prints and 
publications, the alleged horrors of slavery are 
depicted in the most glowing and exaggerated 
colors, to excite the imaginations and stimulate 



156 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



the rage of the people in the free States against 
the people in the slave States. The slaveholder 
is held up and represented as the most atrocious 
of human beings. Advertisements of fugitive 
slaves to be sold are carefully collected and 
blazoned forth, to infuse a spirit of detestation 
and hatred against one entire and the largest 
section of the Union. And like a notorious 
agitator upon another theatre (Mr. Daniel 
O'Connell), they would hunt down and pro 
scribe from the pale of civilized society the in 
habitants of that entire section. Allow me, Mr. 
President, to say, that whilst I recognize in the 
justly wounded feelings of the Minister of the 
United States at the court of St. James much to 
excuse the notice which he was provoked to 
take of that agitator, in my humble opinion, he 
would better have consulted the dignity of his 
station and of his country in treating him with 
contemptuous silence. That agitator would ex 
clude us from European society he who himself 
can only obtain a contraband admission, and is re 
ceived with scornful repugnance into it ! If he 
be no more desirous of our society than we are 
of his, he may rest assured that a state of eternal 
non-intercourse will exist between us. Yes, sir, 
I think the American Minister would have best 
pursued the dictates of true dignity by regard 
ing the language of that member of the British 
House of Commons as the malignant ravings of 
the plunderer of his own country, and the libeller 
of a foreign and kindred people. 

" But the means to which I have already ad 
verted are not the only ones which this third 
class of ultra- Abolitionists are employing to 
effect their ultimate end. They began their 
operations by professing to employ only per 
suasive means in appealing to the humanity, 
and enlightening the understandings, of the 
slaveholclmg portion of the Union. If there 
were some kindness in this avowed motive, it 
must be acknowledged that there was rather a 
presumptuous display also of an assumed supe 
riority in intelligence and knowledge. For some 
time they continued to make these appeals to 
our duty and our interest; but impatient with 
the slow influence of their logic upon our stupid 
minds, they recently resolved to change their 
system of action. To the agency of their powers 
of persuasion, they now propose to substitute 
the powers of the ballot box ; and he must be 
blind to what is passing before us, who does not 
perceive that the inevitable tendency of their 
proceedings is, if these should be found insuffi 
cient, to invoke, finally, the more potent powers 
of the bayonet. 

" Mr. President, it is at this alarming stage of 
the proceedings of the ultra- Abolitionists that I 
would seriously invite every considerate man in 
the country solemnly to pause, and deliberately 
to reflect, not merely on our existing posture, 
but upon that dreadful precipice down which 
they would hurry us. It is because these ultra- 
Abolitionists have ceased to employ the instru 
ments of reason and persuasion, have made their 



cause political, and have appealed to the ballot 
box, that I am induced, upon this occasion, to 
address you. 

" There have been three epochs in the history 
of our country at which the spirit of abolition 
displayed itself. The first was immediately 
after the formation of the present federal gov 
ernment. When the constitution was about 
going into operation, its powers were not well 
understood by the community at large, and re 
mained to be accurately interpreted and defined. 
At that period numerous abolition societies 
were formed, comprising not merely the Society 
of Friends, but many other good men. Peti 
tions were presented to Congress, praying for 
the abolition of slavery. They were received 
without serious opposition, referred, and report 
ed upon by a committee. The report stated 
that the general government had no powei to 
abolish slavery as it existed in the several 
States, and that these States themselves had ex 
clusive jurisdiction over the subject. The re 
port was generally acquiesced in, and satisfac 
tion and tranquillity ensued ; the abolition 
societies thereafter limiting their exertions, in 
respect to the black population, to offices of 
humanity within the scope of existing laws. 

" The next period when the subject of slavery 
and abolition, incidentally, was brought into 
notice and discussion, was on the memorable 
occasion of the admission of the State of Mis 
souri into the Union. The struggle was long, 
strenuous, and fearful. It is too recent to make 
it necessary to do more than merely advert to 
it, and to say, that it was finally composed by 
one of those compromises characteristic of our 
institutions, and of which the constitution itself 
is the most signal instance. 

" The third is that in which we now find our 
selves, and to which various causes have con 
tributed. The principal one, perhaps, is British 
emancipation in the islands adjacent to our con 
tinent. Confounding the totall} 7 " different cases 
of the powers of the British Parliament and 
those of our Congress, and the totally different 
conditions of ihe slaves in the British West 
India Islands and the slaves in the sovereign 
and independent States of this confederacy, 
superficial men have inferred from the undecid 
ed British experiment the practicability of the 
abolition of slavery in these States. All these 
are different. The powers of the British Parlia 
ment are unlimited, and often described to be 
omnipotent. The powers of the American Con 
gress, on the contrary, are few, cautiously limit 
ed, scrupulously excluding all that are not 
granted, and above all, carefully and absolutely 
excluding all power over the existence or con 
tinuance of slavery in the several States. Tha 
slaves, too, upon which British legislation ope 
rated, were not in the bosom of the kingdom, 
but in remote and feeble colonies, having no 
voice in Parliament. The West India slave 
holder was neither representative, or represented 
in that Parliament. And while I most fervently 



ANNO 1839. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



157 



wish complete success to the British experiment 
of the West India emancipation, I confess that 
I have fearful forebodings of a disastrous ter 
mination. Whatever it may be,- 1 think it must 
be admitted that, if the British Parliament 
treated the West India slaves as freemen, it also 
treated the West India freemen as slaves. If 
instead of these slaves being separated by a 
wide ocean from the parent country, three or 
four millions of African negro slaves had been 
dispersed over England, Scotland, Wales and 
Ireland, and their owners had been members of 
the British Parliament a case which would 
have presented some analogy to our own coun 
try does any one believe that it would have 
been expedient or practical to have emancipated 
them, leaving them to remain, with all their 
embittered feelings, in the United kingdom, 
boundless as the powers of the British govern 
ment are 1 

" Other causes have conspired with the Brit 
ish example to produce the existing excitement 
from abolition. I say it with profound regret, 
and with no intention to occasion irritation 
here or elsewhere, that there are persons in 
both parts of the Union who have sought to 
mingle abolition with politics, and to array one 
portion of the Union against the other. It is 
the misfortune of free countries that, in high 
party times, a disposition too often prevails to 
seize hold of every thing which can strengthen 
the one side or weaken the other. Prior to the 
late election of the present President of the 
United States, he was charged with being an 
abolitionist, and abolition designs were imputed 
to many of his supporters. Much as I was op 
posed to his election, and am to his administra 
tion. I neither shared in making or believing 
the truth of the charge. He was scarcely in 
stalled in office before the same charge was di 
rected against those who opposed his election. 

" It is not true I rejoice that it is not true 
that either of the two great parties in this 
country has any design or aim at abolition. I 
should deeply lament if it were true. I should 
consider, if it were true, that the danger to the 
stability of our system would be infinitely 
greater than any which does, I hope, actually 
exist. Whilst neither party can be, I think, 
justly accused of any abolition tendency or pur 
pose, both have profited, and both been injured, 
in particular localities, by the accession or ab 
straction of abolition support. If the account 
were fairly stated, I believe the party to which 
I am opposed has profited much more, and been 
injured much less, than that to which I belong. 
But I am far, for that reason, from being dis 
posed to accuse our adversaries of abolitionism. 



CHAPTER XXXVIII. 

BANK OP THE UNITED STATES : EESIGNATION 
OF ME. BIDDLE : FINAL SUSPENSION. 

ON the first of January of this year this Bank 
made an exposition of its affairs to the Gene 
ral Assembly of Pennsylvania, as required by 
its charter, in which its assets aggregated 
$66,180,396 ; and its liabilities aggregated 
$33,180,855 : the exposition being verified by 
the usual oaths required on such occasious. 

On the 30th of March following Mr. Biddle 
resigned his place as president of the Bank, 
giving as a reason for it that, ; the affairs of 
the institution were in a state of great pros 
perity ', and no longer needed his services" 

On the same day the board of directors in ac 
cepting the resignation, passed a resolve declar 
ing that the President Biddle had left the insti 
tution "prosperous in all its relations, strong 
in its ability to promote the interest of the 
community, cordial with other banks, and se 
cure in the esteem and respect of all connected 
with it at home or abroad." 

On the 9th of October the Bank closed her 
doors upon her creditors, under the mild name 
of suspension never to open them again. 

In the month of April preceding, when leav 
ing Washington to return to Missouri, I told the 
President there would be another suspension, 
headed by the Bank of the United States, be 
fore we met again : at my return in November 
it was his first expression to remind me of that 
conversation ; and to say it was the second time 
I had foreseen these suspensions, and warned 
him of them. He then jocularly said, don't 
predict so any more. I answered I should not ; 
for it was the last time this Bank would sus 
pend. 

Still dominating over the moneyed systems 
of the South and West, this former colossal insti 
tution was yet able to carry along with her near 
ly all the banks of one-half of the Union : and 
using her irredeemable paper against the solid 
currency of the New York and other Northern 
banks, and selling fictitious bills on Europe, she 
was able to run them hard for specie curtail 
their operations and make panic and distress 
In the money market. At the same time bj 



158 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



naking an imposing exhibition of her assets, 
arranging a reciprocal use of their notes with 
other suspended banks, keeping up an apparent 
par value for her notes and stocks by fictitious 
and collusive sales and purchases, and above all, 
by her political connection with the powerful 
opposition she was enabled to keep the field 
as a bank, and as a political power : and as such 
to act an effective part in the ensuing presiden 
tial election. She even pretended to have be 
come stronger since the time when Mr. Biddle 
left her so prosperous j and at the next exposi 
tion of her affairs to the Pennsylvania legis 
lature (Jan. 1, 1840), returned her assets at 
$74,603,142 ; her liabilities at $36.959,539, and 
her surplus at $37,643,603. This surplus, after 
paying all liabilities, showed the stock to be 
worth a premium of $2,643,603. And all this 
duly sworn to. 



CHAPTER XXXIX. 

FIRST SESSION TWENTY-SIXTH CONGRESS : MEM 
BERS: ORGANIZATION: POLITICAL MAP OF THE 
HOUSE. 

Members of the Senate. 

NEW HAMPSHIRE. Henry Hubbard, Franklin 
Pierce. 

MAINE. John Ruggles, Reuel Williams. 

MASSACHUSETTS. John Davis. Daniel Web 
ster. 

VERMONT. Sam'l Prentiss, Sam'l S. Phelps. 

RHODE ISLAND. Nehemiah R. Knight, N. F. 
Dixon. 

CONNECTICUT. Thaddeus Betts, Perry 
Smith. 

NEW YORK. Silas Wright, N. P. Tallmadge. 

NEW JERSEY. Sam'l L. Southard, Garret 
D. Wall. 

PENNSYLVANIA. James Buchanan, Daniel 
Sturgeon. 

DELAWARE. Thomas Clayton. 

MARYLAND. John S. Spence, Wm. D. Mer- 
rick. 

VIRGINIA. William H. Roane. 

NORTH CAROLINA. Bedford Brown, R. 
Strange. 

SOUTH CAROLINA. John C. Calhoun, Wm. 
Campbell Preston. 

GEORGIA. Wilson Lumpkin, Alfred Cuth- 
bert 

KENTUCKY. Henry Clay, John J. Critten- 
den. 

TENNESSEE. Hugh L. White, Alex. An 
derson. 



OHIO. William Allen, Benjamin Tappan. 

INDIANA. Oliver H. Smith, Albert S. White. 

MISSISSIPPI. Robert J. Walker, John Hen 
derson. 

LOUISIANA. Robert C. Nicholas, Alexander 
Mouton. 

ILLINOIS. John M. Robinson, Richard M. 
Young. 

ALABAMA. Clement C. Clay, Wm. Rufus 
King. 

MISSOURI. Thomas H. Benton, Lewis F. 
Linn. 

ARKANSAS. William S. Fulton, Ambrose 
Sevier. 

MICHIGAN. John Norvell, Augustus S. Por 
ter. 

Members of the House of Representatives. 

MAINE. Hugh J. Anderson, Nathan Clifford, 
Thomas Davee, George Evans, Joshua A. Lowell, 
Virgil D. Parris, Benjamin Randall, Albert 
Smith. 

NEW HAMPSHIRE. Charles G. Atherton, 
Edmund Burke, Ira A. Eastman, Tristram Shaw, 
Jared W. Williams. 

CONNECTICUT. Joseph Trumbull, William 
L. Storrs, Thomas W. Williams, Thomas B. 
Osborne, Truman Smith, John H. Brockway. 

VERMONT. Hiland Hall, William Slade, 
Horace Everett, John Smith, Isaac Fletcher. 

MASSACHUSETTS. Abbot Lawrence, Leverett 
Saltonstall, Caleb Gushing, William Parmenter, 
Levi Lincoln, [Vacancy,] George N. Briggs, 
William B. Calhoun, William S. Hastings, Hen 
ry Williams, John Reed, John Quincy Adams. 

RHODE ISLAND. Chosen by general ticket. 
Joseph L. Tillinghast, Robert B. Cranston. 

NEW YORK. Thomas B. Jackson, James de 
la Montayne, Ogden Hoffman, Edward Curtis, 
Moses H. Grinnell, James Monroe, Gouverneur 
Kemble, Charles Johnson, Nathaniel Jones, 
Rufus Palen, Aaron Vanderpoel, John Ely, 
Hiram P. Hunt, Daniel D. Barnard, Anson 
Brown, David Russell, Augustus C. Hand, John 
Fine, Peter J. Wagoner, Andrew W. Doig, 
John G. Floyd, David P. Brewster, Thomas C. 
Crittenden, John H. Prentiss, Judson Allen, 
John C. Clark, S. B. Leonard, Amasa Dana, 
Edward Rogers, Nehemiah H. Earl, Christopher 
Morgan, Theron R. Strong, Francis P. Granger, 
Meredith Mallory, Seth M. Gates, Luther C. 
Peck, Richard P. Marvin, Millard Fillmore, 
Charles F. Mitchell. 

NEW JERSEY. Joseph B. Randolph, Peter 
D. Vroom, Philemon Dickerson, William R. 
Cooper, Daniel B. Ryall, Joseph Kille. 

PENNSYLVANIA. William Beatty, Richard 
Biddle, James Cooper, Edward Davies, John 
Davis, John Edwards, Joseph Fornance, John 
Galbraith, James Gerry, Robert II. Hammond, 
Thomas Henry, Enos Hook, Francis James, 
George M. Keim, Isaac Leet, Albert G. Mar- 
chand, Samuel W. Morris, George McCulloch, 
Charles Nay lor, Peter Newhard, Charles Ogle, 



ANNO 1839. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



159 



Lemuel Paynter, David Petrikin, William S. 
Ramsey, John Sergeant, William Simonton, 
George W. Toland, David D. Wagener. 

DELAWARE. Thomas Robinson, jr. 

MARYLAND. James Carroll, John Dennis, 
Solomon Hillen, jr., Daniel Jenifer, William 
Cost Johnson, Francis Thomas, Philip F. 
Thomas, John T. H. Worthington. 

VIRGINIA. Linn Banks, Andrew Beirne, 
John M. Botts, Walter Coles, Robert Craig, 
George C. Dromgoole, James Garland, William 
L. Goggin, John Hill, Joel Holleman, George 
W. Hopkins, Robert M. T. Hunter, Joseph 
Johnson, John W. Jones, William Lucas, 
Charles F. Mercer, Francis E. Rives, Green B. 
Samuels, Lewis Steinrod, John Taliaferro, Hen 
ry A. Wise. 

NORTH CAROLINA. Jesse A. Bynum, Henry 
W. Connor, Edmund Deberry, Charles Fisher, 
James Graham, Micajah T. Hawkins, John 
Hill, James J. McKay, William Montgomery, 
Kenneth Rayner, Charles Shepard, Edward 
Stanly, Lewis Williams. 

SOUTH CAROLINA. Sampson H. Butler. John 
Campbell, John K. Griffin, Isaac E. Holmes, 
Francis W. Pickens, R. Barnwell Rhett, James 
Rogers, Thomas B. Sumter, Waddy Thomp 
son, jr. 

GEORGIA. Julius C. Alford, Edward J. 
Black, Walter T. Colquitt, Mark A. Cooper, 
William C. Dawson, Richard W. Habersham, 
Thomas B. King, Eugenius A. Nisbet, Lott 
Warren. 

ALABAMA. R. H. Chapman, David Hubbard, 
George W. Crabb, Dixon H. Lewis, James Dil- 
lott. 

LOUISIANA. Edward D. White, Edward 
Chinn, Rice Garland. 

MISSISSIPPI. A. G. Brown, J. Thompson. 

MISSOURI. John Miller, John Jameson. 

ARKANSAS. Edward Cross. 

TENNESSEE. William B. Carter, Abraham 
McClellan, Joseph L. Williams, Julius W. 
Blackwell, Hopkins L. Turney, William B. 
Campbell, John Bell, Meredith P. Gentry, 
Harvey M. Waterson, Aaron V. Brown, Cave 
Johnson, John W. Crockett, Christopher H. 
Williams. 

KENTUCKY. Linn Boyd, Philip Triplett, Jo- 
soph Underwood, Sherrod Williams, Simeon W. 
Anderson, Willis Green, John Pope, William J. 
Graves, John White, Richard Hawes, L. W. 
Andrews, Garret Davis, William 0. Butler. 

OHIO. Alexander Duncan, John B. Weller, 
Patrick G. Goode, Thomas Corwin, William 
Doane, Calvary Morris, William K. Bond, Jo 
seph Ridgway, William Medill, Samson Ma 
son, Isaac Parish, Jonathan Taylor, D. P. Lead- 
better, George Sweeny, John W. Allen, Joshua 
R. Giddings, John Hastings, D. A. Stark 
weather, Henry Swearingen. 

MICHIGAN. Isaac E. Crary. 

INDIANA. Geo. H. Proffit, John Davis, John 
Carr, Thomas Smith James Rariden, Wm. W. 
Wick. T. A. Howard. 



ILLINOIS. John Reynolds, Zadok Casey, 
John T. Stuart. 

The organization of the House was delayed 
for many days by a case of closely and earnest 
ly contested election from the State of New 
Jersey. Five citizens, to wit: John B. Ay- 
crigg, John B. Maxwell, William Halsted. 
Thomas C. Stratton, Thomas Jones Yorke, had 
received the governor's certificate as duly elect 
ed : five other citizens, to wit : Philemon Dick- 
erson, Peter D. Vroom, Daniel B. Ryall, Wil 
liam R. Cooper, John Kille, claimed to have 
received a majority of the lawful votes given in 
the election : and each set demanded admission 
as representatives. No case of contested election 
was ever more warmly disputed in the House. 
The two sets of claimants were of opposite politi 
cal parties : the House was nearly divided : five 
from one side and added to the other would make 
a difference of ten votes : and <;hese ten might 
determine its character. The first struggjfc was 
on the part of the members holding the certifi 
cates claiming to be admitted, and to act as mem 
bers, until the question of right should be de 
cided ; and as this would give them a right to vote 
for speaker, it might have had the effect of decid 
ing that important election : and for this point a 
great struggle was made by the whig party. 
The democracy could not ask for the immediate 
admission of the five democratic claimants, as 
they only presented a case which required to 
be examined before it could be decided. Their 
course was to exclude both sets, and send them 
equally before the committee of contested elec 
tions ; and in the mean time, a resolution to pro 
ceed with the organization of the House was 
adopted after an arduous and protracted struggle, 
in which every variety of parliamentary motion 
was exhausted by each side to accomplish its pur 
pose ; and, at the end of three months it was re 
ferred to the committee to report which five of the 
ten contestants had received the greatest number 
of legal votes. This was putting the issue on the 
rights of the voters on the broad and popular 
ground of choice by the people : and was equiv 
alent to deciding the question in favor of the 
democratic contestants, who held the certificate 
of the Secretary of State that the majority of 
votes returned to his office was in their favor, 
counting the votes of some precincts which the 
governor and council had rejected for illegality 
in holding the elections. As the constitutional 



160 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



judge of the election, qualifications and returns 
of its own members, the House disregarded the 
decision of the governor and council ; and, de 
ferring to the representative principle, made the 
decision turn, not upon the conduct of the offi 
cers holding the election, but upon the rights 
of the voters 

This strenuous contest was not terminated 
until the 10th of March nearly one hundred 
days from the time of its commencement. The 
five democratic members were then admitted to 
their seats. In the mean time the election for 
speaker had been brought on by a vote of 118 
to 110 the democracy having succeeded in 
bringing on the election after a total exhaustion 
of every parliamentary manoeuvre to keep it off. 
Mr. John W. Jones, of Virginia, was the demo 
cratic nominee : Mr. Jno. Bell, of Tennessee, was 
nominated on the part of the whigs. The whole 
vote given in was 235, making 118 necessary to 
a choice. Of these, Mr. Jones received 118: 
Mr. Bell, 102. Twenty votes were scattered, 
of which 11, on the whig side, went to Mr. 
Dawson of Georgia ; and 9 on the democratic 
side were thrown upon three southern mem 
bers. Had any five of these nine voted for Mr. 
Jones, it would have elected him: while the 
eleven given to Mr. Dawson would not have ef 
fected the election of Mr. Bell. It was clear the 
democracy had the majority, for the contested 
election from New Jersey having been sent to a 
committee, and neither set of the contestant s 
allowed to vote, the question became purely and 
simply one of party : but there was a fraction 
in each party which did not go with the party 
to which it belonged : and hence, with a ma 
jority in the House to bring on the election, 
and a majority voting in it, the democratic 
nominee lacked five of the number requisite to 
elect him. The contest was continued through 
five successive ballotings without any better re 
sult for Mr. Jones, and worse for Mr. Bell ; and 
it became evident that there was a fraction of 
each party determined to control the election. 
It became a question with the democratic party 
what to do ? The fraction which did not go 
with the party were the friends of Mr. Calhoun, 
and although always professing democratically 
had long acted with the whigs, and had just re 
turned to the body of the party against which 
they had been acting. The election was in their 
hands, and they gave it to be known that if one 
of their number was taken, they would vote with 



the body of the party tud elect him: and Mr 
Dixon H. Lewis, of Alabama, was the person 
indicated. The extreme importance of having a 
speaker friendly to the administration induced 
all the leading friends of Mr. Van Buren to go 
into this arrangement, and to hold a cau-cus to 
cary it into effect. The caucus was held : Mr. 
Lewis was adopted as the candidate of the 
party: and, the usual resolves of unanimity 
having been adopted, it was expected to elect 
him on the first trial. He was not, however, 
so elected ; nor on the second trial ; nor on the 
third; nor on any one up to the seventh: 
when, having never got a higher vote than Mr. 
Jones, and falling off to the one-half of it, he 
was dropped ; and but few knew how the balk 
came to pass. It was thus : The writer of this 
View was one of a few who would not capitulate 
to half a dozen members, known as Mr. Cal- 
houn's friends, long separated from the party, 
bitterly opposing it, just returning to it, and 
undertaking to govern it by constituting them 
selves into a balance wheel between the two 
nearly balanced parties. He preferred a clean 
defeat to any victory gained by such capitula 
tion. He was not a member of the House, but 
had friends there who thought as he did ; and 
these he recommended to avoid the caucus, and 
remain unbound by its resolves ; and when the 
election came on, vote as they pleased : which 
they did : and enough of them throwing away 
their votes upon those who were no candidates, 
thus prevented the election of Mr. Lewis : and 
so returned upon the little fraction of pretenders 
the lesson which they had taught. 

It was the same with the whig party. A 
fraction of its members refused to support the 
regular candidate of the party ; and after many 
fruitless trials to elect him, he was abandoned 
Mr. Robert M. T. Hunter, of Virginia, taken 
up, and eventually elected. He had voted with 
the whig party in the New Jersey election case 
among the scattering in the votes for speak< r ; 
and was finally elected by the full whig vote, 
and a few of the scattering from the democratic 
ranks. He was one of the small band of Mr. 
Calhoun's friends ; so that that gentleman suc 
ceeded in governing the whig election of speaker, 
after failing to govern that of the democracy. 

In looking over the names of the candidates 
for speaker it will be seen that the whole were 
Southern men no Northern man being at any 
time put in nomination, or voted for. And this 



ANNO 1839. MARTIN YAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



161 



circumstance illustrates a pervading system of 
action between the two sections from the 
foundation of the government the southern 
going for the honors, the northern for the bene 
fits of the government. And each has succeeded, 
but with the difference of a success in a solid 
and in an empty pursuit. The North has be 
come rich upon the benefits of the government : 
the South has grown lean upon its honors. 

This arduous and protracted contest for 
speaker, and where the issue involved the vital 
party question of the organization of the House, 
and where every member classified himself by a 
deliberate and persevering series of votes, be 
comes important in a political classification 
point of view, and is here presented in detail as 
the political map of the House taking the first 
vote as showing the character of the whole. 

1. Members voting for Mr. Jones : 113. 

Judson Allen, Hugh J. Anderson, Charles G. 
Atherton, Linn Banks, William Beatty, Andrew 
Beirne, Julius W. Blackwell, Linn Boyd, David 
P. Brewster, Aaron V. Brown, Albert G. Brown, 
Edmund Burke, Sampson H. Butler, William 
0. Butler. Jesse A. Bynum, John Carr, James 
Carroll, Zadok Casey, Reuben Chapman, Nathan 
Clifford, Walter Coles, Henry W. Connor, Ro 
bert Craig, Isaac E. Crary, Edward Cross, 
Amasa Dana, Thomas Davee, John Davis, John 
W. Davis, William Doan, Andrew W. Doig, 
George C. Dromgoole, Alexander Duncan. Ne- 
hemiah H. Earl, Ira A. Eastman, John Ely, 
John Fine, Isaac Fletcher, John G. Floyd, 
Joseph Fornance, John Galbraith, James Gerry, 
Robert H. Hammond, Augustus C. Hand, John 
Hastings, Micajah T. Hawkins, John Hill of 
North Carolina, Solomon Hillen jr., Joel Holle- 
man, Enos Hook, Tilghman A. Howard, David 
Hubbard. Thomas B. Jackson, John Jameson, 
Joseph Johnson, Cave Johnson, Nathaniel 
Jones, George M. Keim, Gouverneur Kemble, 
Daniel P. Leadbetter, Isaac Leet, Stephen B. 
Leonard, Dixon H. Lewis, Joshua A. Lowell, 
William Lucas, Abraham McLellan, George 
McCulIoch, James J. McKay, Meredith Mallory, 
Albert G. Marchand, William Medill, John 
Miller, James D. L. Montanya, William Mont 
gomery, Samuel W. Morris, Peter Newhard, 
Isaac Parrish, William Parmenter, Virgil D. 
Parris, Lemuel Paynter, David Petrikin, Francis 
W. Pickens, John H. Prentiss, William S. Ram 
sey, John Reynolds, R. Barnwell Rhett, Francis 
E. Rives, Thomas Robinson jr., Edward Rod- 
gers, Green B. Samuels, Tristram Shaw, Charles 
hhepard, Albert Smith, John Smith, Thomas 
Smith, David A. Starkweather, Lewis Steenrod 
Theron R. Strong, Henry Swearingen. George 
b weeny, Jonathan Taylor, Francis Thomas 
Philip F. Thomas, Jacob Thompson, Hopkins 
VOL. II. 11 



L. Turney, Aaron Vanderpoel, David D. Wagner, 
Harvey M. Watterson, John B. Weller, William 
W. Wick, Jared W. Williams, Henrvr Williams 
John T. H. Worthington. 

2. Members voting for Mr. Bell: 102. 
John Quincy Adams, John W. Allen, Simeon 

H. Anderson, Landaff W. Andrews, Daniel D. 
Barnard, Richard Biddle, William K. Bond, 
John M. Botts, George N. Briggs, John H. 
Brockway, Anson Brown, William B. Calhoun, 
William B. Campbell, William B. Carter, Thom 
as W. Chinn, Thomas C. Chittenden, John C. 
Clark, James Cooper, Thomas Corwin, George 
W. Crabb, Robt. B. Cranston, John W. Crockett, 
Edward Curtis, Caleb Gushing, Edward Davies, 
Garret Davis, William C. Dawson, Edmund 
Deberry, John Dennis, James Dellet. John Ed 
wards, George Evans, Horace Everett, Millard 
Fillmore, Rice Garland, Seth M. Gates, Meredith 
P. Gentry, Joshua R. Giddings, William L. 
Goggin, Patrick G. Goode, James Graham, 
Francis Granger, Willis Green, William J. 
Graves, Moses H. Grinnell, Hiland Hall, Wil 
liam S. Hastings, Richard Hawes, Thomas Hen 
ry, John Hill of Virginia, Ogden Hoffman, 
Hiram P. Hunt, Francis James, Daniel Jenifer, 
Charles Johnston, William Cost Johnson, Ab 
bott Lawrence, Levi Lincoln, Richard P. Marvin, 
Samson Mason, Charles F. Mercer, Charles F. 
Mitchell, James Monroe, Christopher Morgan ( 
Calvary Morris, Charles Naylor, Charles Ogle! 
Thomas B. Osborne, Rufus Palen, Luther C. 
Peck, John Pope, George H. Proffit, Benjamin 
Randall, Joseph F. Randolph, James Rariden, 
Kenneth Rayner, John Reed, Joseph Ridgway, 
David Russell, Leverett Saltonstall. John Ser 
geant, William Simonton, William Slade, Tru 
man Smith, Edward Stanly, William L. Storrs, 
John T. Stuart, John Taliaferro, Joseph L. Til- 
linghast, George W. Toland, Philip Triplett, 
Joseph Trumbull, Joseph R. Underwood, Peter 
J. Wagner, Edward D. White, John White, 
Thomas W. Williams, Lewis Williams, Joseph 
L. Williams, Christopher H. Williams, Sherrod 
Williams, Henry A. Wise. 

3. Scattering: 20. 

The following named members voted for 
William C. Dawson, of Georgia. 

Julius C. Alford, John Bell, Edward J. Black, 
Richard W. Habershain, George W. Hopkins, 
Hiram P. Hunt, William Cost Johnson, Thomas 
B. King, Eugenius A. Nisbet, Waddy Thomp 
son jr., Lott Warren. 

The following named members voted for Dixon 
H. Lewis, of Alabama: 

John Campbell, Mark A. Cooper, John K. 
Griffin, John W. Jones, Walter T. Colquitt 

The following named members voted foi 
Francis W. Pickens, of South Carolina: 

Charles Fisher, Isaac E. Holmes, Robert M 
T. Hunter, James Rogers, Thomas B. Sumter 

James Garland voted for George W. Hopkins, 
of Virginia. 



162 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



Charles Ogle voted for Robert M. T. Hunter, 
Df Virginia. 



CHAPTER XL. 

FIRST SESSION OF THE TWENTY-SIXTH CON 
GRESS : PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE. 

THE President met with firmness the new sus 
pension of the banks of the southern and west 
ern half of the Union, headed by the Bank of 
the United States. Far from yielding to it he 
persevered in the recommendation of his great 
measures, found in their conduct new reasons i 
for the divorce of Bank and State, and plainly j 
reminded the delinquent institutions with a to 
tal want of the reasons for stopping payment 
which they had alleged two years before. He 
said: 

" It now appears that there are other motives 
than a want of public confidence under which 
the banks seek to justify themselves in a refusal 
to meet their obligations. Scarcely were the 
country and government relieved, in a degree, 
from the difficulties occasioned by the general 
suspension of 1837, when a partial one, occur 
ring within thirty months of the former, pro 
duced new and serious embarrassments, though 
it had no palliation in such circumstances as 
were alleged in justification of that which had 
previously taken place. There was nothing in 
the condition of the country to endanger a well- 
managed banking institution ; commerce was 
deranged by no foreign war ; every branch of 
manufacturing industry was crowned with rich 
rewards ; and the more than usual abundance 
of our harvests, after supplying our domestic 
wants, had left our granaries and storehouses 
filled with a surplus for exportation. It is in 
the midst of this, that an irredeemable and de 
preciated paper currency is entailed upon the 
people by a large portion of the banks. They 
are not driven to it by the exhibition of a loss 
of public confidence ; or of a sudden pressure 
from their depositors or note-holders, but they 
excuse themselves by alleging that the current 
of business, and exchange with foreign coun 
tries, which draws the precious metals from 
their vaults, would require, in order to meet it, 
a larger curtailment of their loans to a compar 
atively small portion of the community, than it 
will be convenient for them to bear, or perhaps 
safe for the banks to exact. The plea has 
ceased to be one of necessity. Convenience 
and policy are now deemed sufficient to war 
rant these institutions in disregarding their 
solemn obligations. Such conduct is not mere 



ly an injury to individual creditors, but it is a 
wrong to the whole community, from whose 
liberality they hold most valuable privileges- 
whose rights they violate, whose business they 
derange, and the value of whose property they 
render unstable and insecure. It must be evi 
dent that this new ground for bank suspen 
sions, in reference to which their action is nut 
only disconnected with, but wholly independent 
of, that of the public, gives a character to their 
suspensions more alarming than any which they 
exhibited before, and greatly increases the im 
propriety of relying on the banks in the trans 
actions of the government." 

The President also exposed the dangerous 
nature of the whole banking system from its 
chain of connection and mutual dependence of 
one upon another, so as to make the misfortune 
or criminality of one the misfortune of all. Our 
country banks were connected with those of 
New York and Philadelphia : they again with 
the Bank of England. So that a financial crisis 
commencing in London extends immediately to 
our great Atlantic cities ; and thence through 
out the States to the most petty institutions 
of the most remote villages and counties : so 
that the lever which raised or sunk our country 
banks was in New York and Philadelphia, 
while they themselves were worked by a lever 
in London ; thereby subjecting our system to 
the vicissitudes of English banking, and espe 
cially while we had a national bank, which, by 
a law of its nature, would connect itself with 
the Bank of England. All this was well shown 
by the President, and improved into a reason 
for disconnecting ourselves from a moneyed 
system, which, in addition to its own inherent 
vices and fallibilities, was also subject to the 
vices, fallibilities, and even inimical designs of 
another, and a foreign system belonging to a 
power, always our competitor in trade and 
manufactures sometimes our enemy in open 
war. 

"Distant banks may fail, without seriously 
affecting those in our principal commercial 
cities ; but the failure of the latter is felt at the 
extremities of the Union. The suspension at 
New York, in 1837, was every where, with 
very few exceptions, followed, as soon as it was 
known ; that recently at Philadelphia imme 
diately affected the banks of the South and West 
in a similar manner. This dependence of our 
whole banking system on the institutions in a 
few large cities, is not found in the laws of theii 
organization, but in those of trade and exchange. 
The banks at that centre to which currency 



ANNO 1839. MARTIN" VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



163 



flows, and where it is required in payments for 
merchandise, hold the power of controlling those 
in regions whence it comes, while the latter 
possess no means of restraining them ; so that 
the value of individual property, and the pros 
perity of trade, through the whole interior of 
the country, are made to depend on the good or 
bad management of the banking institutions in 
the great seats of trade on the seaboard. But 
this chain of dependence does not stop here. 
It docs not terminate at Philadelphia or New 
York. It reaches across the ocean, and ends in 
London, the centre of the credit system. The 
same laws of trade, which give to the banks in 
our principal cities power over the whole bank 
ing system of the United States, subject the 
former, in their turn, to the money power in 
Great Britain. It is not denied that the sus 
pension of the New York banks in 1837, which 
was followed in quick succession throughout the 
Union, was partly produced by an application 
of that power ; and it is now alleged, in extenu 
ation of the present condition of so large a por 
tion of our banks, that their embarrassments 
have arisen from the same cause. From this 
influence they cannot now entirely escape, for 
it has its origin in the credit currencies of the 
two countries ; it is strengthened by the cur 
rent of trade and exchange, which centres in 
London, and is rendered almost irresistible by 
the large debts contracted there by our mer 
chants, our banks, and our States. It is thus 
that an introduction of a new bank into the 
most distant of our villages, places the business 
of that village within the influence of the money 
power in England. It is thus that every new 
debt which we contract in that country, seriously 
affects our own currency, and extends over the 
pursuits of our citizens its powerful influence. 
We cannot escape from this by making new 
banks, great or small, State or National. The 
same chains which bind those now existing to 
the centre of this system of paper credit, must 
equally fetter every similar institution we create. 
It is only by the extent to which this system 
has been pushed of late, that we have been made 
fully aware of its irresistible tendency to sub 
ject our own banks and currency to a vast con 
trolling power in a foreign land ; and it adds a 
new argument to those which illustrate their 
precarious situation. Endangered in the first 
place by their own mismanagement, and again 
by the conduct of every institution which con 
nects them with the centre of trade in our own 
country, they are yet subjected, beyond all this, 
to the effect of whatever measures, policy, neces 
sity, or caprice, may induce those who control 
the credits of England to resort to. Is an argu 
ment required beyond the exposition of these 
facts, to show the impropriety of using our 
banking institutions as depositories of the pub 
lic money ? Can we venture not only to en 
counter the risk of their individual and mutual 
mismanagement, but, at the same time, to place 
our foreign and domestic policy entirely under 



the control of a foreign moneyed interest ? Tc 
do so is to impair the independence of our 
government, as the present credit system has 
already impaired the independence of our banks. 
It is to submit all its important operations, 
whether of peace or war, to be controlled or 
thwarted at first by our own banks, and then 
by a power abroad greater than themselves. I 
cannot bring myself to depict the humiliation 
to which this government and people might be 
sooner or later reduced, if the means for defend 
ing their rights are to be made dependent upon 
those who may have the most powerful of mo 
tives to impair them." 

These were sagacious views, clearly and 
strongly presented, and new to the public. 
Few had contemplated the evils of our paper 
system, and the folly and danger of depending 
upon it for currency, under this extended and 
comprehensive aspect ; but all saw it as soon as 
it was presented; and this actual dependence 
of our banks upon that of England became a 
new reason for the governmental dissolution of 
all connection with them. Happily they were 
working that dissolution themselves, and pro 
ducing that disconnection by their delinquencies 
which they were able to prevent Congress from 
decreeing. An existing act of Congress forbid 
the employment of any non-specie paying bank 
as a government depository, and equally forbid 
the use of its paper. They expected to coerce 
the government to do both : it did neither : and 
the disconnection became complete, even before 
Congress enacted it. 

The President had recommended, in his first 
annual message, the passage of a pre-emption 
act in the settlement of the public lands, and 
of a graduation act to reduce the price of the 
lands according to their qualities, governed by 
the length of time they had been in market. 
The former of these recommendations had been 
acted upon, and became law ; and the President 
had now the satisfaction to communicate its 
beneficial operation. 

"On a former occasion your attention was 
invited to various considerations in support of a 
pre-emption law in behalf of the settlers on the 
public lands ; and also of a law graduating the 
prices for such lands as had long been in the 
market unsold, in consequence of their inferior 
quality. The execution of the act which was 
passed on the first subject has been attended 
with the happiest consequences, in quieting 
titles, and securing improvements to the indis- 
trious ; and it has also, to a very gratifying ex 
tent been exempt from the frauds which were 



164 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



practised under previous pre-emption laws. It 
has, at the same time, as was anticipated, con 
tributed liberally during the present year to 
the receipts of the Treasury. The passage of a 
graduation law, with the guards before recom 
mended, would also, I am persuaded, add con 
siderably to the revenue for several years, and 
?*ove in other respects just and beneficial, 
our early consideration of the subject is, there 
fore, once more earnestly requested." 

The opposition in Congress, who blamed the 
administration for the origin and conduct of the 
war with the Florida Indians, had succeeded in 
getting through Congress an appropriation for 
a negotiation with this tribe, and a resolve re 
questing the President to negotiate. He did 
so with no other effect than to give an oppor 
tunity for renewed treachery and massacre. 
The message said : 

" In conformity with the expressed wishes of 
Congress, an attempt was made in the spring to 
terminate the Florida war by negotiation. It is 
to be regretted that these humane intentions 
should have been frustrated, and that the efforts 
to bring these unhappy difficulties to a satis 
factory conclusion should have failed. But, after 
entering into solemn engagements with the Com 
manding General, the Indians, without any pro 
vocation, recommenced their acts of treachery 
and murder. The renewal of hostilities in that 
Territory renders it necessary that I should 
recommend to your favorable consideration the 
measure proposed by the Secretary at War (the 
armed occupation of the Territory)." 

With all foreign powers the message had 
nothing but what was friendly and desirable to 
communicate. Nearly every question of dis 
sension and dispute had been settled under the 
administration of his predecessor. The accu 
mulated wrongs of thirty years to the property 
and persons of our citizens, had been redressed 
under President Jackson. He left the foreign 
world in peace and friendship with his country ; 
and his successor maintained the amicable rela 
tions so happUy established. 



CHAPTER XLI. 

DIVOKCE OP BANK AND STATE ; DIVOKCE DE- 
CKEED. 

THIS measure, so long and earnestly contested, 
was destined to be carried into effect at this 
session ; but not without an opposition on the 



part of the whig members in each House, which 
exhausted both the powers of debate, and 
the rules and acts of parliamentary warfare. 
Even after the bill had passed through all its 
forms had been engrossed for the third read 
ing, and actually been read a third time and 
was waiting for the call of the vote, with a fixed 
majority shown to be in its favor the warfare 
continued upon it, with no other view than to 
excite the people against it : for its passage in 
the Senate was certain. It was at this last mo 
ment that Mr. Clay delivered one of his impas 
sioned and glowing speeches against it. 

" Mr. President, it is no less the duty of the 
statesman than the physician, to ascertain the 
exact state of the body to which he is to minis 
ter before he ventures to prescribe any healing 
remedy. It is with no pleasure, but with pro 
found regret, that I survey the present condition 
of our country. I have rarely, I think never, 
known a period of such universal and intense dis 
tress. The general government is in debt, and its 
existing revenue is inadequate to meet its ordi 
nary expenditure. The States are in debt, some 
of them largely in debt, insomuch that they 
have been compelled to resort to the ruinous 
expedient of contracting new loans to meet the 
interest upon prior loans; and the people are 
surrounded with difficulties ; greatly embar 
rassed, and involved in debt. Whilst this is, 
unfortunately, the general state of the country, 
the means of extinguishing this vast mass of 
debt are in constant diminution. Property is fall 
ing in value all the great staples of the coun 
try are declining in price, and destined, I fear, 
to further decline. The certain tendency of this 
very measure is to reduce prices. The banks 
are rapidly decreasing the amount of their cir 
culation. About one-half of them, extending 
from New Jersey to the extreme Southwest, 
have suspended specie payments, presenting an 
image of a paralytic, one moiety of whose body 
is stricken with palsy. The banks are without 
a head ; and, instead of union, concert, and co 
operation between them, we behold jealousy, 
distrust, and enmity. We have no currency 
whatever possessing uniform value throughout 
the whole country. That which we have, con 
sisting almost entirely of the issues of banks, is 
in a state of the utmost disorder, insomuch that 
it varies, in comparison with the specie standard, 
from par to fifty per cent, discount. Exchanges, 
too, are in the greatest possible confusion, not 
merely between distant parts of the Union, but 
between cities and places in the same neighbor 
hood. That between our great commercial 
marts of New York and Philadelphia, within 
five or six hours of each other, vacillating be 
tween seven and ten per cent. The products 
of our agricultural industry are unable to find 
their way to market from the want of means in 



ANNO 1840. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



165 



the hands of traders to purchase them, or from 
the want of confidence in the stability of things. 
Many of our manufactories stopped or stopping, 
especially in the important branch of woollens ; 
and a vast accumulation of their fabrics on hand, 
owing to the destruction of confidence and the 
wretched state of exchange between different 
sections of the Union. Such is the unexaggerated 
picture of our present condition. And amidst 
the dark and dense cloud that surrounds us, I 
perceive not one gleam of light. It gives me no 
thing but pain to sketch the picture. But duty 
and truth require that existing diseases should 
be fearlessly examined and probed to the bottom. 
We shall otherwise be utterly incapable of con 
ceiving or applying appropriate remedies. If 
the present unhappy state of our country had 
been brought upon the people by their folly 
and extravagance, it ought to be borne with 
fortitude, and without complaint, and without 
reproach. But it is my deliberate judgment 
that it has not been that the people are not to 
blame and that the principal causes of existing 
embarrassments are not to be traced to them. 
Sir, it is not my purpose to waste the time or 
excite the feelings of members of the Senate by 
dwelling long on what I suppose to be those 
causes. My object is a better, a higher, and I 
hope a more acceptable one to consider the 
remedies proposed for the present exigency. 
Still, I should not fulfil my whole duty if I did 
not briefly say that, in my conscience, I believe 
our pecuniary distresses have mainly sprung 
from the refusal to recharter the late Bank of 
the United States ; the removal of the public 
deposits from that institution ; the multiplica 
tion of State banks in consequence ; and the 
Treasury stimulus given to them to extend their 
operations ; the bungling manner in which the 
law, depositing the surplus treasure with the 
States, was executed; the Treasury circular; 
and although last, perhaps not least, the exer 
cise of the power of the veto on the bill for dis 
tributing, among the States, the net proceeds 
of the sales of the public lands." 

This was the opening of the speech the con 
tinuation and conclusion of which was bound to 
be in harmony with this beginning ; and obliged 
to fill up the picture so pathetically drawn. It 
did so, and the vote being at last taken, the bill 
passed by a fair majority 24 to 18. But it 
had the House of Representatives still to en 
counter, where it had met its fate before j and 
to that House it was immediately sent for its 
concurrence. A majority were known to be for 
it ; but the shortest road was taken to its pas 
sage ; and that was under the debate-killing 
pressure of the previous question. That ques 
tion was freely used ; and amendment after 
amendment cut off; motion after motion stifled; 



speech after speech suppressed ; the bill carried 
from stage to stage by a sort of silent struggle 
(chiefly interrupted by the repeated process of 
calling yeas and nays), until at last it reached 
the final vote and was passed by a majority, 
not large, but clear 124 to 107. This was the 
30th of June, that is to say, within twenty daj^s 
of the end of a session of near eight months. 
The previous question, so often abused, now so 
properly used (for the bill was an old measure, 
on which not a new word was to be spoken, or 
a vote to be changed, the only effort being to 
stave it off until the end of the session), accom 
plished this good work and opportunely ; for 
the next Congress was its deadly foe. 

The bill was passed, but the bitter spirit which 
pursued it was not appeased. There is a form 
to be one through after the bill has passed all 
its three readings the form of agreeing to its 
title. This is as much a matter of course and 
form as it is to give a child a name after it is 
born : and, in both cases, the parents having the 
natural right of bestowing the name. But in 
the case of this bill the title becomes a question, 
which goes to the House, and gives to the ene 
mies of the measure a last chance of showing 
their temper towards it: for it is a form in 
which nothing but temper can be shown. This 
is sometimes done by simply voting against the 
title, as proposed by its friends at others, and 
where the opposition is extreme, it is done by a 
motion to amend the title by striking it out, and 
substituting another of odium, and this mode 
of opposition gives the party opposed to it an 
opportunity of expressing an opinion on the 
merits of the bill itself, compressed into an 
essence, and spread upon the journal for a per 
petual remembrance. This was the form adopt 
ed on this occasion. The name borne at the 
head of the bill was inoffensive, and descriptive. 
It described the bill according to its contents, 
and did it in appropriate and modest terms. 
None of the phrases used in debate, such as 
" Divorce of Bank and State," " Sub-treasury," 
"Independent Treasury," &c., and which had 
become annoying to the opposition, were em 
ployed, but a plain title of description in these 
terms: " An act to provide for the collection, 
safe-keeping, and disbursing- of the public 
money." To this title Mr. James Cooper, of 
Pennsylvania, moved an amendment, in the 
shape of a substitute, in these words : " An act 



166 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



to reduce the value of property, the products 
of the farmer, and the wages of labor, to de 
stroy the indebted portions of the community, 
and to place the Treasury of the nation in the 
hands of the President." Before a vote could be 
taken upon this proposed substitute, Mr. Caleb 
Gushing, of Massachusetts, proposed to amend 
it by adding " to enable the public money to be 
drawn from the public Treasury without ap 
propriation made by law," and having proposed 
this amendment to Mr. Cooper's amendment, Mr. 
Gushing began to speak to the contents of the bill. 
Then followed a sc-3ne in which the parliamen 
tary history must be allowed to speak for itself. 

" Mr. GUSHING then resumed, and said he had 
moved the amendment with a view of making a 
very limited series of remarks pertinent to the 
subject. He was then proceeding to show why, 
in his opinion, the contents of the bill did not 
agree with its title, when 

" Mr. PETRIKIN, of Pennsylvania, called him 
to order. 

" The Speaker said the gentleman from Mas 
sachusetts had a right to amend the title of the 
bill, if it were not a proper title. He had, 
therefore, a right to examine the contents of 
the bill, to show that the title was improper. 

" Mr. PETRIKIN still objected. 

" The Speaker said the gentleman from Penn 
sylvania would be pleased to reduce his point 
of order to writing. 

" Mr. PROFFIT, of Indiana, called Mr. Petrikin 
to order : and after some colloquial debate, the 
objection was withdrawn. 

"Mr. GUSHING then resumed, and appeared 
very indignant at the interruption. He wished 
to know if the measure was to be forced on the 
country without affording an opportunity to say 
a single word. He said they were at the last 
act in the drama, but the end was not yet. Mr. 
C. then proceeded to give his reasons why he 
considered the bill as an unconstitutional mea 
sure, as he contended that it gave the Secretary 
power to draw on the public money without 
appropriations by law. He concluded by ob 
serving that he had witnessed the incubation 
and hatching of this cockatrice, but he hoped 
the time was not far distant when the people 
would put their feet on the reptile and crush it 
to the dust. 

" Mr. PICKENS, of South Carolina, then rose, 
and in a very animated manner said he had 
wished to make a few remarks upon the bill be 
fore its passage, but he was now compelled to 
confine himself in reply to the very extraordi 
nary language and tone assumed by the gentle 
man from Massachusetts. What right had he 
to speak of this bill as being forced on the coun 
try by " brutal numbers ? " That gentleman 
had denned the bill according to his conception 



of it ; but he would tell the gentleman, tha* 
the bill would, thank God, deliver this govern 
ment from the hands of those who for so many 
years had lived by swindling the proceeds of 
honest labor. Yes, said Mr. P., I thank my 
God that the hour of our deliverance is now so 
near, from a system which has wrung the hard 
earnings from productive industry for the bene 
fit of a few irresponsible corporations. 

" Sir, I knew the contest would be fierce and 
fitter. The bill, in its principles, draws the 
line between the great laboring- and landed 
interests of this confederacy, and those who are 
identified with capitalists in stocks and live 
upon incorporated credit. The latter class 
have lived and fattened upon the fiscal action 
of this government, from the funding system 
down to the present day and now they feel 
like wolves who have been driven back from 
the warm blood they have been lapping for for 
ty years. Well may the gentleman [Mr. GUSH 
ING], who represents those interests, cry out 
and exclaim that it is a bill passed in force by 
fraud and power it is the power and the spirit 
of a free people determined to redeem them 
selves and their government. 

" Here the calls to order were again renewed 
from nearly every member of the opposition, 
and great confusion prevailed. 

" The Speaker with much difficulty succeeded 
in restoring something like order, and as none 
of those who had so vociferously called Mr. P. 
to order, raised any point, 

" Mr. PICKENS proceeded with his remarks, 
and alluding to the words of Mr. Gushing, that 
" this was the last act of the drama," said this 
was the first, and not the last act of the drama. 
There were great questions that lay behind 
this, connected with the fiscal action of the 
government, and which we will be called on to 
decide in the next few years; they were all 
connected with one great and complicated sys 
tem. This was the commencement, and only a 
branch of the system. 

" Here the cries of order from the opposition 
were renewed, and after the storm had some 
what subsided, 

" Mr. P. said, rather than produce confusion 
at that late hour of the day, when this great 
measure was so near a triumphant consumma 
tion, and, in spite of all the exertions of its 
enemies, was about to become the law of the 
land, he would not trespass any longer on the 
attention of the House. But the gentleman 
had said that because the first section had de 
clared what should constitute the Treasury, and 
that another section had provided for keeping 
portions of the Treasury in other places than 
the safes and vaults in the Treasury building 
of this place ; that, therefore, it was to be in 
ferred that those who were to execute it would 
draw money from the Treasury without appro 
priations by law, and thus to perpetrate a fraud 
upon the constitution. Mr. P. said, let those 



ANNO 1840. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



167 



who are to execute this bill dare to commit this 
outrage, and use money for purposes not in 
tended in appropriations by law, and they 
would be visited with the indignation of an 
outraged and wronged people. It would be 
too gross and palpable. Such is not the broad 
meaning and intention of the bill. The con 
struction given by the gentleman was a forced 
and technical one, and not natural. It was 
too strained to be seriously entertained by 
any one for a moment. He raised his protest 
against it. 

"Mr. P. regretted the motion admitted of 
such narrow and confined debate. He would 
not delay the passage of the bill upon so small 
a point. He congratulated the country that we 
had approached the period when the measure 
was about to be triumphantly passed into a 
permanent law of the land. It is a great 
measure. Considering the lateness of the hour, 
the confusion in the House, and that the gen 
tleman had had the advantage of an opening 
speech, he now concluded by demanding the 
previous question. 

" On this motion the disorder among the op 
position was renewed with tenfold fury, and 
some members made use of some very hard 
words, accompanied by violent gesticulation. 

u It was some minutes before any thing ap 
proaching order could be restored. 

" The Speaker having called on the sergeant- 
at-arms to clear the aisles, 

" The call of the previous question was sec 
onded, and the main question on the amend 
ment to the amendment ordered to be put. 

" The motion for the previous question hav 
ing received a second, the main question was 
ordered. 

" The question was then taken on Mr. Cush- 
ing's amendment to the amendment, and disa 
greed to without a count. 

" The question recurring on the substitute of 
Mr. Cooper, of Pennsylvania, for the original 
title of the bill, 

"Mr. 11. GARLAND, of Louisiana, demanded 
the yeas and nays, which having been ordered, 
were yeas 87, nays 128. 

Eighty-seven members voted, on yeas and 
nays, for Mr. Cooper's proposed title, which 
was a strong way of expressing their opinion of 
it. For Mr. Cushing's amendment to it, there 
were too few to obtain a division of the House ; 
and thus the bill became complete by getting a 
name but only by the summary, silent, and 
enforcing process of the previous question. 
Even the title was obtained by that process. 
The passage of this act was the distinguishing 
glory of the Twenty-sixth Congress, and the 
" crowning mercy " of Mr. Van Buren's admin 
istration. Honor and gratitude to the members. 



and all the remembrance which this book car 
give them. Their names were : 

IN THE SENATE : Messrs. Allen of Ohio 
Benton, Brown of North Carolina Buchanau 
Calhoun, Clay of Alabama, Cuthbert of Geor 
gia, Fulton of Arkansas, Grundy, Hubbard of 
New Hampshire, King of Alabama, Linn of 
Missouri, Lumpkin of Georgia, Mouton of Loui 
siana, Norvell of Michigan, Pierce of New 
Hampshire, Roane of Virginia, Sevier of Ar 
kansas, Smith of Connecticut, Strange of North 
Carolina, Tappan of Ohio, Walker of Missis 
sippi, Williams of Maine. 

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES : Messrs, 
Judson Allen, Hugh J. Anderson, Charles G. 
Atherton, William Cost Johnson, Cave Johnson, 
Nathaniel Jones, John W. Jones, George M, 
Keim, Gouverneur Kemble, Joseph Kille, Daniel 
P. Leadbetter, Isaac Leet, Stephen B. Leonard, 
Dixon H. Lewis, Joshua A. Lowell, William 
Lucas, Abraham McClellan, George McCulloch, 
James J. McKay, Meredith Mallory, Albert G. 
Marchand, William Medill, John Miller, James 
D. L. Montanya, Linn Banks, William Beatty, 
Andrew Beirne, William Montgomery, Samuel 
W. Morris, Peter Newhard, Isaac Parrish, Wil 
liam Parmenter, Virgil D. Parris, Lemuel Payn- 
ter, David Petrikin, Francis W. Pickens, John 
II. Prentiss, William S. Ramsey. John Reynolds, 
R. Barnwell Rhett, Francis E. Rives, Thomas 
Robinson, Jr., Edward Rogers, James Rogers, 
Daniel B. Ryall, Green B. Samuels, Tristram 
Shaw, Charles Shepard, Edward J. Black, 
Julius W. Blackwell, Linn Boyd, John Smith, 
Thomas Smith, David A. Starkweather, Lewis 
Steenrod, Theron R. Strong, Thomas D. Sum- 
ter, Henry Swearingen, George Sweeney, Jona 
than Taylor, Francis Thomas, Philip F. Thomas, 
Jacob Thompson, Hopkins L. Turney. Aaron 
Vanderpoel, Peter D. Vroom, David D. Wagener, 
Harvey M. Watterson, John B. Weller, Jared 
W. Williams, Henry Williams, John T. H. 
Worthington. 



CHAPTER XLII. 

FLORIDA ARMED OCCUPATION BILL: ME. BEN- 
TON'S SPEECH : EXTRACTS. 

ARMED occupation, with land to the occupant, 
is the true way of settling and holding a con 
quered country. It is the way which has been 
followed in all ages, and in all countries, from 
the time that the children of Israel entered tho 
promised land, with the implements of hus 
bandry in one hand, and the weapons of war in 
the other. From that day to this, all conquered 



168 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



countries had been settled in that way. Armed 
settlement, and a homestead in the soil, was the 
principle of the Roman military colonies, by 
which they consolidated their conquests. The 
northern nations bore down upon the south of 
Europe in that way : the settlers of the New 
World our pilgrim fathers and all settled 
these States in that way: the settlement of 
Kentucky and Tennessee was effected in the 
same way. The armed settlers went forth to 
fight, and to cultivate. They lived in stations 
first an assemblage of blockhouses (the Roman 
presidium), and emerged to separate settlements 
afterwards ; and in every instance, an interest 
in the soil an inheritance in the land was the 
reward of their enterprise, toil, and danger. 
The peninsula of Florida is now prepared for 
this armed settlement : the enemy has been 
driven out of the field. He lurks, an unseen 
foe, in the swamps and hammocks. He no 
longer shows himself in force, or ventures a 
combat; but, dispersed and solitary, commits 
individual murders and massacres. The coun 
try is prepared for armed settlement. 

It is the fashion I am sorry to say it to 
depreciate the services of our troops in Florida 
to speak of them as having done nothing; as 
having accomplished no object for the country, 
and acquired no credit for themselves. This 
was a great error. The military had done an 
immensity there ; they had done all that arms 
could do, and a great deal that the axe and the 
spade could do. They had completely conquered 
the country ; that is to say, they had driven the 
enemy from the field ; they had dispersed the 
foe ; they had reduced them to a roving banditti, 
whose only warfare was to murder stragglers 
and families. Let any one compare the present 
condition of Flor ; da with what it was at the 
commencement of the war, and see what a 
change has taken place. Then combats were 
frequent. The Indians embodied continually, 
fought our troops, both regulars, militia, and 
volunteers. Those hard contests cannot be 
forgotten. It cannot be forgotten how often 
these Indians met our troops in force, or hung 
upon the flanks of marching columns, harassing 
and attacking them at every favorable point. 
Now all this is done.. For two years past, we 
have heard of no such thing. The Indians, de 
feated in these encounters, and many of them 
removed to the West, have now retired from 



the field, and dispersed in small parties over the 
whole peninsula of Florida. They are dispersed 
over a superficies of 45,000 square miles, and 
that area sprinkled all over with haunts adapted 
to their shelter, to which they retire for safety 
like wild beasts, and emerge again for new mis 
chief. Our military have then done much , 
they have done all that military can do ; they 
have broken, dispersed, and scattered the enemy. 
They have driven them out of the field ; they 
have prepared the country for settlement, that 
is to say, for armed settlement. There has been 
no battle, no action, no skirmish, in Florida, for 
upwards of two years. The last combats were 
at Okeechobee and Caloosahatchee, above two 
years ago. There has been no war since that 
time ; nothing but individual massacres. The 
country has been waiting for settlers for two 
years ; and this bill provides for them, and 
offers them inducements to settle. 

Besides their military kbors, our troops have 
done an immensity of labor of a different kind. 
They have penetrated and perforated the whole 
peninsula of Florida ; they have gone through 
the Serbonian bogs of that peninsula ; they 
have gone where the white man's foot never 
before was seen to tread ; and where no Indian 
believed it could ever come. They have gone 
from the Okeefekonee swamp to the Everglades ; 
they have crossed the peninsula backwards and 
forwards, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlan 
tic Ocean. They have sounded every morass, 
threaded every hammock, traced every creek, 
examined every lake, and made the topography 
of the country as well known as that of the 
counties of our States. The maps which the 
topographical officers have constructed, and the 
last of which is in the Report of the Secretary 
at War, attest the extent of these explorations, 
and the accuracy and minuteness of the surveys 
and examinations. Besides all this, the troops 
have established some hundreds of posts ; they 
have opened many hundred miles of wagon 
road; and they have constructed some thou 
sands of feet of causeways and bridges. These 
are great and meritorious labors. They are 
labors which prepare the country for settle 
ment ; prepare it for the 10,000 armed cultiva 
tors which this bill proposes to send there. 

Mr. B. said he paid this tribute cheerfully to 
the merits of our military, and our volunteers 
and militia employed in Florida ; the more 



ANNO 1840. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



169 



cheerfully, because it was the inconsiderate 
custom of too many to depreciate the labors of 
these brave men. He took pleasure, here in 
his place, in the American Senate, to do them 
justice ; and that without drawing invidious 
comparisons without attempting to exalt some 
at the expense of others. He viewed with a 
favorable eye with friendly feelings with pre 
possessions in their favor all who were doing 
their best for their country ; and all such all 
who did their best for their country should 
have his support and applause, whether fortune 
was more or less kind to them, in crowning 
their meritorious exertions with success. He 
took pleasure in doing all this justice ; but his 
tribute would be incomplete, if he did not add 
what was said by the Secretary at "War, in his 
late report, and also by the immediate com 
mander, General Taylor. 

Mr. B. repeated, that the military had done 
their duty, and deserved well of their country. 
They had brought the war to that point, when 
there was no longer an enemy to be fought ; 
when there was nothing left but a banditti to 
be extirpated. Congress, also, had tried its 
policy the policy of peace and conciliation 
and the effort only served to show the unparal 
leled treachery and savageism of the ferocious 
beasts with which we had to deal. He alluded 
to the attempts at negotiation and pacification, 
tried this summer under an intimation from 
Congress. The House of Representatives, at 
the last session, voted $5,000 for opening nego 
tiations with these Indians. When the appro 
priation came to the Senate, it was objected to 
by himself and some others, from the know 
ledge they had of the character of these Indians, 
and their belief that it would end in treachery 
and misfortune. The House adhered ; the ap 
propriation was made ; the administration acted 
upon it, as they felt bound to do ; and behold 
the result of the attempt ! The most cruel 
and perfidious massacres plotted and contrived 
while making the treaty itself ! a particular 
officer selected, and stipulated to be sent to a 
particular point under the pretext cf establish 
ing a trading-post, and as a protector, there to 
be massacred ! a horrible massacre in reality 
perpetrated there ; near seventy persons since 
massacred, including families ; the Indians 
themselves emboldened by our offer of peace, 
and their success in treachery ; and the whole 



aspect of the war made worse by our injudicious 
attempt at pacification. 

Lt. Col. Harney, with a few soldiers and some 
citizens, was reposing on the banks of the Ca- 
loosahatchee, under the faith of treaty negotia 
tions, and on treaty ground. He was asleep. 
At the approach of daybreak he was roused by 
the firing and yells of the Indians, who had got 
possession of the camp, and killed the sergeant 
and more than one-half of his men. Eleven 
soldiers and five citizens were killed ; eight sol 
diers and two citizens escaped. Seven of the 
soldiers, taking refuge in a small sail-boat, then 
lying off in the stream, in which the two citi 
zens fortunately had slept that night, as soon 
as possible weighed anchor, and favored by a 
light breeze, slipped off unperceived by the In 
dians. The Colonel himself escaped with great 
difficulty, and after walking fifteen miles down 
the river, followed by one soldier, came to a 
canoe, which he had left there the evening pre 
vious, and succeeded, by this means, in getting 
on board the sail-boat, where he found those 
who had escaped in her. Before he laid down 
to sleep, the treacherous Chitto Tustenuggee, 
partaking his hospitality, lavished proofs of' 
friendship upon him. Here was an instance of 
treachery of which there was no parallel in In 
dian warfare. With all their treachery, the 
treaty-ground is a sacred spot with the In 
dians ; but here, in the very articles of a treaty 
itself, they plan a murderous destruction of an 
officer whom they solicited to be sent with 
them as their protector ; and, to gratify all 
their passions of murder and robbery at once, 
they stipulate to have their victims sent to a 
remote point, with settlers and traders, as well 
as soldiers, and with a supply of goods. All 
this they arranged ; and too successfully did 
they execute the plan. And this was the be 
ginning of their execution of the treaty. Mas 
sacres, assassinations, robberies, and house-burn 
ings, have followed it up, until the suburbs of 
St. Augustine and Tallahasse are stained with 
blood, and blackened with fire. About seventy 
murders have since taken place, including the de 
struction of the shipwrecked crews and passen 
gers on the southern extremity of the peninsula. 

The plan of Congress has, then, been tried ; 
the experiment of negotiation has been tried 
and has ended disastrously and cruelly for us, 
and with greatly augmenting the confidence 



170 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



and ferocity of the enemy. It puts an end to 
all idea of finishing the war there by peaceable 
negotiation. Chastisement is what is due to 
these Indians, and what they expect. They 
mean to keep no faith with the government, 
and henceforth they will expect no faith to be 
reposed in them. The issue is now made ; we 
have to expel them by force, or give up forty- 
five thousand square miles of territory much 
of it an old settled country to be ravaged by 
this banditti. 

The plan of Congress has been tried, and has 
ended in disaster ; the militar}' have done all 
that military can do ; the administration h?ve 
now in the country all the troops which can h?i 
spared for the purpose. They have there th 
one-half of our regular infantry, to wit : four 
regiments out of eight j they have there the 
one-half of our dragoons, to wit : one regiment ; 
they even have there a part of our artillery, to 
wit: one regiment; and they have besides, 
there, a part of the naval force to scour the 
coasts and inlets ; and, in addition to all this, 
ten companies of Florida volunteers. Even the 
marines under their accomplished commander 
(Col. Henderson), and at his request, have been 
sent there to perform gallant service, on an ele 
ment not their own. No more of our troops can 
be spared for that purpose ; the West and the 
North require the remainder, and more than the 
remainder. The administration can do no more 
than it has done with the means at its command. 
It is laid under the necessity of asking other 
means ; and the armed settlers provided for in 
this bill are the principal means required. One 
thousand troops for the war, is all that is asked 
in addition to the settlers, in this bill. 

This then is the point we are at : To choose 
between granting these means, or doing nothing ! 
Yes, sir, to choose between the recommenda 
tions of the administration, and nothing! I 
say, these, or nothing ; for I presume Congress 
will not prescribe another attempt at negotia 
tion ; no one will recommend an increase of 
ten thousand regular troops ; no one will re 
commend a draft of ten thousand militia. It 
is, then, the plan of the administration, or 
nothing ; and this brings us to the question, 
whether the government can now fold its arms, 
leave the regulars to man their posts, and aban 
don the country to the Indians ? This is now 
the question ; and to this point I will direct the 



observations which make it impossible for u? 
to abdicate our duty, and abandon the country 
to the Indians. 

I assume it then as a point granted, that 
Florida cannot be given up that she cannot 
be abandoned that she cannot be left in her 
present state. What then is to be done? 
Raise an army of ten thousand men to go there 
to fight ? Why, the men who are there now 
can find nobody to fight ! It is two years since 
a fight has been had ; it is two years since we 
have heard of a fight. Ten men, who will avoid 
surprises and ambuscades, can now go from one 
end of Florida to the other As warriors, these 
Indians no longer appear , it is only as assas 
sins, as robbers, as incendiaries, that they lurk 
about. The country wants settlers, not an 
army. It has wanted these settlers for two 
years j and this bill provides for them, and 
offers them the proper inducements to go. 
And here I take the three great positions, that 
this bill is the appropriate remedy ; that it is 
the efficient remedy : that it is the cheap reme 
dy, for the cure of the Florida difficulties. It 
is the appropriate remedy : for what is now 
wanted, is not an army to fight, but settlers 
and cultivators to retain possossiop of the coun 
try, and to defend their possession. We want 
people to take possession, and keep possession , 
and the armed cultivator is the man for that. 
The blockhouse is the first house to be built in 
an Indian country ; the stockade is the first 
fence to be put up. Within that blockhouse, and 
a few of them together a hollow square of 
blockhouses, two miles long on each side, two 
hundred yards apart, and enclosing a good 
field safe habitations are found for families. 
The faithful mastiff, to give notice of the ap 
proach of danger, and a few trusty rifles in brave 
hands, make all safe. Cultivation and defence 
then goes hand in hand. The heart of the Indian 
sickens when he hears the crowing of the cock, 
the barking of the dog, the sound of the axe, and 
the crack of the rifle. These are the true evi 
dences of the dominion of the white man j these 
are the proof that the owner has come, and means 
to stay ; and then they feel it to be time for them 
to go. While soldiers alone are in the country, 
they feel their presence to be temporary ; that 
they are mere sojourners in the land, and sooner 
or later must go away. It is the settler alone, 
the armed settler, whose presence announces the 



ANNO 1840. MARTIN VAN BLTREN, PRESIDENT. 



171 



dominion the permanent dominion of the 
white man. 

It is the most efficient remedy. On this 
point we can speak with confidence, for the 
other remedies have been tried, and have failed. 
The other remedies are to catch the Indians, 
an 1 remove them ; or, to negotiate with them, 
and induce them to go off. Both have been 
tried ; both are exhausted. No human being 
now thinks that our soldiers can catch these 
Indians ; no one now believes in the possibility 
of removing them by treaty. No other course 
remains to be tried, but the armed settlement ; 
and that is so obvious, that it is difficult to see 
how any one that has read history, or has 
heard how this new world was settled, or how 
Kentucky and Tennessee were settled, can 
doubt it. 

The peninsula is a desolation. Five counties 
have been depopulated. The inhabitants of five 
counties the survivors of many massacres- 
have been driven from their homes : this bill is 
intended to induce them to return, and to induce 
others to go along with them. Such induce 
ments to settle and defend new countries have 
been successful in all ages and in all nations ; 
and cannot fail to be effectual with us. De- 
liberat Roma, perit Saguntum, became the 
watchword of reproach, and of stimulus to ac 
tion in the Roman Senate when the Senate 
deliberated while a colony was perishing. 
Saguntum perishes while Rome deliberates: 
and this is truly the case with ourselves and 
Florida. That beautiful and unfortunate terri 
tory is a prey to plunder, fire, and murder. The 
savages kill, burn and rob where they find a 
man. a house, or an animal in the desolation 
which they have made. Large part of the terri- 
tjry is the empty and bloody skin of an im 
molated victim. 



CHAPTER XLIII. 

ASSUMPTION OF THE STATE DEBTS, 

ABOUT one-half of the States had contracted 
debts abroad which they were unable to pay 
T hen due, and in many instances were unable 
<jo pay the current annual interest. These debts 



at this time amounted to one hundred and 
seventy millions of dollars, and were chiefly due 
in Great Britain. They had been converted 
into a stock, and held in shares, and had gone 
into a great number of hands ; and from de 
faults in payments were greatly depreciated. 
The Reverend Sydney Smith, of witty memory, 
and aimiable withal, was accustomed to lose all 
his amiability, but no part of his wit, when he 
spoke of his Pennsylvania bonds which in fact 
was very often. But there was another class 
of these bond-holders who did not exhale their 
griefs in wit, caustic as it might be, but looked 
to more substantial relief to an assumption in 
some form, disguised or open, virtual or actual, 
of these debts by the federal government. 
These British capitalists, connected with capital 
ists in the United States, possessed a weight on 
this point which was felt in the halls of Con 
gress. The disguised attempts at this assump 
tion, were in the various modes of conveying 
federal money to the States in the shape of dis 
tributing surplus revenue, of dividing the public 
land money, and of bestowing money on the 
States under the fallacious title of a deposit. 
But a more direct provision in their behalf was 
wanted by these capitalists, and in the course 
of the year 1839 a movement to that effect was 
openly made through the columns of their regu 
lar organ The London Bankers' Circular, 
emanating from the most respectable and opu 
lent house of the Messrs. Baring, Brothers and 
Company. At this open procedure on the part 
of these capitalists, it was deemed expedient to 
meet the attempt in limine by a positive de 
claration in Congress against the constitution 
ality, the justice, and the policy of any such 
measure. With this view Mr. Benton, at the 
commencement 6f the first session of Congress 
after the issuing of the Bankers' Circular, sub 
mitted a series of resolutions in the Senate, 
which, with some modification, and after an 
earnest debate, were passed in that body. These 
were the resolutions : 

" 1. That the assumption of such debts either 
openly, by a direct promise to pay them, or 
disguisedly by going security for their payment, 
or by creating surplus revenue, or applying the 
national funds to pay them, would be a gross 
and flagrant violation of the constitution, wholly 
unwarranted by the letter or spirit of that in 
strument, and utterly repugnant to all the ob- 



172 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



jects and purposes for which the federal Union 
was formed. 

" 2. That the debts of the States being now 
chiefly held by foreigners, and constituting a 
stock in foreign markets greatly depreciated, 
any legislative attempt to obtain the assumption 
or securityship of the United States for their 
payment, or to provide for their payment out 
of the national funds, must have the effect of 
enhancing the value of that stock to the amount 
of a great many millions of dollars, to the enor 
mous and undue advantage of foreign capitalists, 
and of jobbers and gamblers in stocks ; thereby 
holding out inducement to foreigners to inter 
fere in our affairs, and to bring all the influences 
of a moneyed power to operate upon public 
opinion, upon our elections, and upon State 
and federal legislation, to produce a consumma 
tion so tempting to their cupidity, and so pro 
fitable to their interest. 

" 3. That foreign interference and foreign in 
fluence, in all ages, and in all countries, have 
been the bane and curse of free governments ; 
and that such interference and influence are far 
more dangerous, ia the insidious intervention 
of the moneyed power, than in the forcible in 
vasions of fleets and armies. 

" 4. That to close the door at once agaiast all 
applications for such assumption, and to arrest 
at their source the vast tide of evils which would 
flow from it, it is necessary that the constituted 
authorities, without delay, shall RESOLVE and 
DECLARE their utter opposition to the proposal 
contained in the late London Bankers' Circular in 
relation to State debts, contracted for local and 
State purposes, and recommending to the Con 
gress of the United States to assume, or gua 
rantee, or provide for the ultimate payment of 
said debts." 

In the course of the discussion of these resolu 
tions an attempt was made to amend them, and 
to reverse their import, by obtaining a direct 
vote of the Senate in favor of distributing the 
public land revenue among the States to aid 
them in the payment of these debts. This pro 
position was submitted by Mr 1 . Crittenden, of 
Kentucky ; and was in these words : " That it 
would be just and proper to distribute the pro 
ceeds of the sales of the public lands among the 
several States in fair and ratable proportions ; 
and that the condition of such of the States as 
have contracted debts is such, at the present 
moment of pressure and difficulty, as to render 
such distribution especially expedient and im 
portant." This proposition received a consider 
able support, and was rejected upon yeas and 
nays 28 to 17. The yeas were Messrs. Betts 
of Connecticut, Clay of Kentucky, Crittenden, 
Davis of Massachusetts, Dixon of Rhode Island, 



Knight of Connecticut, Merrick of Maryland. 
Phelps of Vermont, Porter of Michigan, Pren- 
tiss of Vermont, Ruggles of Maine, Smith of 
Indiana, Southard of New Jersey, Spence of 
Maryland, Tallmadge, Webster, White of Indi 
ana. The nays were : Messrs. Allen of Ohio, 
Anderson of Tennessee, Benton, Bedford Brown 
Calhoun, Clay of Alabama, Alfred Cuthbert, 
Grundy, Henderson of Mississippi, Hubbard, 
King of Alabama, Linn of Missouri. Lumpkin of 
Georgia, Mouton, Nicholas of Louisiana, Norvell 
of Michigan, Pierce, Preston, Roane, Robinson, 
Sevier, Strange, Sturgeon, Tappan of Ohio, 
Wall of New Jersey, Williams, Wright. As 
the mover of the resolutions Mr. Benton sup 
ported them in a speech, of which some extracts 
are given in the next chapter. 



CHAPTER XLIV. 

ASSUMPTION OF THE STATE DEBTS: MR. BEN- 
TON'S SPEECH: EXTEACTS. 

THE assumption of the State debts contracted 
for State purposes has been for a long time a 
measure disguisedly, and now is a measure 
openly, pressed upon the public mind. The 
movement in favor of it has been long going 
on ; opposing measures have not yet commenc 
ed. The assumption party have the start, and 
the advantage of conducting the case ; and they 
have been conducting it for a long time, and in 
a way to avoid the name of assumption while 
accomplishing the thing itself. All the bills for 
distributing the public land revenue all the 
propositions for dividing surplus revenue all 
the refusals to abolish unnecessary taxes all 
the refusals to go on with the necessary defences 
of the country were so many steps taken in 
the road to assumption. I know very well that 
many who supported these measures had no 
idea of assumption, and would oppose it as soon 
as discovered ; but that does not alter the nature 
of the measures they supported, and which were 
so many steps in the road to that assumption, 
then shrouded in mystery and futurity, now 
ripened into strength, and emboldened into s\ 
public disclosure of itself. Already the State 
legislatures are occupied with this subject, while 
we sit here, waiting its approach. 



ANNO 1840. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



173 



It is time for the enemies of assumption to 
take the field, and to act. It is a case in which 
they should give, and not receive, the attack. 
The President has led the way ; he has shown 
his opinions. He has nobly done his duty. He 
has shown the evils of diverting the general 
funds from their proper objects the mischiefs 
of our present connection with the paper sys 
tem of England and the dangers of foreign in 
fluence from any further connection with it. In 
this he has discharged a constitutional and a 
patriotic duty. Let the constituted authorities, 
each in their sphere, follow his example, and 
declare their opinions also. Let the Senate 
especially, as part of the legislative power as 
the peculiar representative of the States in their 
sovereign capacity let this body declare its 
sentiments, and, by its resolves and discussions, 
arrest the progress of the measure here, and 
awaken attention to it elsewhere. As one of 
the earliest opposers of this measure as, in 
fact, the very earliest opposer of the whole 
family of measures of which it is the natural 
offspring as having denounced the assumption 
in disguise in a letter to my constituents long 
before the London Bankers' letter revealed it to 
the public : as such early, steadfast, and first 
denouncer of this measure, I now come forward 
to oppose it in form, and to submit the resolves 
which may arrest it here, and carry its discus 
sion to the forum of the people. 

I come at once to the point, and say that dis 
guised assumption, in the shape of land revenue 
distribution, is the form in which we shall have 
to meet the danger ; and I meet it at once in 
that disguise. I say there is no authority in 
the constitution to raise money from any branch 
of the revenue for distribution among the States, 
or to distribute that which had been raised for 
other purposes. The power of Congress to 
raise money is not unlimited and arbitrary, but 
restricted, and directed to the national objects 
named in the constitution. The means, the 
amount, and the application, are all limited. 
The means are direct taxes duties on imports 
and the public lands ; the objects are the 
support of the government the common de 
fence and the payment of the debts of the 
Union : the amount to be raised is of course 
limited to the amount required for the accom 
plishment of these objects. Consonant to the 
words and the spirit of the constitution, is the 



title, the preamble and the tenor of all the early 
statutes for raising money ; they all declare the 
object for which the money is wanted; they 
declare the object at the head of the act 
Whether it be a loan, a direct tax, or a duty 
on imports, the object of the loan, the tax, or 
the duty, is stated in the preamble to the act ; 
Congress thus excusing and justifying them 
selves for the demand in the very act of making 
it, and telling the people plainly what they 
wanted with the money. This was the way in 
all the early statutes ; the books are full of ex 
amples ; and it was only after money began to 
be levied for objects not known to the constitu^ 
tion, that this laudable and ancient practice was 
dropped. Among the enumerated objects for 
which money can be raised by Congress, is that 
of paying the debts of the Union ; and is it not 
a manifest absurdity to suppose that, while it 
requires an express grant of power to enable us 
to pay the debts of the Union, we can pay 
those of the States by implication and by indi 
rection ? No, sir, no. There is no constitu 
tional way to assume these State debts, or to 
pay them, or to indorse them, or to smuggle the 
money to the States for that purpose, under 
the pretext of dividing land revenue, or surplus 
revenue, among them. There is no way to do 
it. The whole thing is constitutionally impos 
sible. It was never thought of by the framers 
of our constitution. They never dreamed of 
such a thing. There is not a word in their 
work to warrant it. and the whole idea of it is 
utterly repugnant and offensive to the objects 
and purposes for which the federal Union was 
framed. 

We have had one assumption in our country 
and that in a case which was small in amount, 
and free from the impediment of a constitn- 
tional objection; but which was attended by 
such evils as should deter posterity from imi 
tating the example. It was in the first year of 
the federal government ; and although the as 
sumed debts were only twenty millions, and 
were alleged to have been contracted for gene 
ral purposes, yet the assumption was attended 
by circumstances of intrigue and corruption, 
which led to the most violent dissension in 
Congress, suspended the business of the two 
Houses, drove some of the States to the verga 
of secession, and menaced the Union with in 
stant dissolution. Mr. Jefferson, who was a 



174 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



witness of the scene, and who was overpowered 
by General Hamilton, and by the actual dan 
gers of the country, into its temporary support, 
thus describes it : 

<c This game was over (funding the soldiers' 
certificates), and another was on the carpet at 
the moment of my arrival ; and to this I was 
most ignorantly and innocently made to hold 
the candle. This fiscal manoeuvre is well 
known by the name of the assumption. Inde 
pendently of the debts of Congress, the States 
had, during the war, contracted separate and 
heavy debts, &c. * * * * This money, 
whether wisely or foolishly spent, was pretend 
ed to have been spent for general purposes, 
and ought therefore to be paid from the gene 
ral purse. But it was objected, that nobody 
knew what these debts were, what their 
amount, or what their proofs. No matter ; we 
will guess them to be twenty millions. But of 
these twenty millions, we do not know how 
much should be reimbursed to one State or 
how much to another. No matter; we will 
guess. And so another scramble was set on 
foot among the several States, and some got 
much, some little, some nothing. * * * * 
This measure produced the most bitter and an 
gry contests ever known in Congress, before 
or since the union of the States. * * * * 
The great and trying question, however, was 
lost in the House of Representatives. So high 
were the feuds excited by this subject, that on 
its rejection business was suspended. Congress 
met and adjourned, from day to day, without 
doing any thing, the parties being too much out 
of temper to do business together. The East 
ern members particularly, who, with Smith 
from South Carolina, were the principal gam 
blers in these scenes, threatened a secession 
and dissolution. * * * * But it was final 
ly agreed that whatever importance had been 
attached to the rejection of this proposition, the 
preservation of the Union, and of concord among 
the States, was more important ; and that, 
therefore, it would be better that the vote of 
rejection should be rescinded ; to effect which, 
some members should change their votes. But 
it was observed that this pill would be pecu 
liarly bitter to the Southern States, and that 
seme concomitant measure should be adopted 
to sweeten it a little to them. There had be 
fore been propositions to fix the seat of govern 
ment either at Philadelphia, or at Georgetown, 
on the Potomac ; and it was thought that, by 
giving it to Philadelphia for ten years, and 
to Georgetown permanently afterwards, this 
might, as an anodyne, calm in some degree the 
ferment which might be excited by the other 
measure alone. So two of the Potomac mem 
bers (White and Lee, but White with a revul 
sion of stomach almost convulsive) agreed to 
change their votes, and Hamilton undertook to 
carry the other point j and so the assumption 



was passed, and twenty millions of stock divid 
ed among the favored States, and thrown in as 
a pabulum to the stock-jobbing herd. * * * 
Still the machine was not complete ; the effect 
of the funding system and of the assumption 
would be temporary ; it would be lost with the 
loss of the individual members whom it had en 
riched ; and some engine of influence more per 
manent must be contrived while these myrmi 
dons were yet in place to carry it through. 
This engine was the Bank of the United 
States." 

What a picture is here presented ! Debts 
assumed in the mass, without knowing what 
they were in the gross, or what in detail Con 
gress in a state of disorganization, and all busi 
ness suspended for many days secession and 
disunion openly menaced compromise of in 
terests intrigue buying and selling of votes 
conjunction of parties to pass two measures 
together, neither of which could be passed sep 
arately speculators infesting the halls of legis 
lation, and openly struggling for their spoil 
the funding system a second time sanctioned 
and fastened upon the country jobbers and 
gamblers in stocks enriched twenty millions 
of additional national debt created and the es 
tablishment of a national bank insured. Such 
were the evils attending a small assumption of 
twenty millions of dollars, and that in a case 
where there was no constitutional impediment 
to be evaded or surmounted. For in that case 
the debts assumed had been incurred for the 
general good for the general defence during 
the revolution : in this case they have been in 
curred for the local benefit of particular States. 
Half the States have incurred none ; and are 
they to be taxed to pay the debts of the rest ? 

These stocks are now greatly depreciated. 
Many of the present holders bought them upon 
speculation, to take the chance of the rise. A 
diversion of the national domain to their pay 
ment would immediately raise them far above 
par would be a present of fifty or sixty cents 
on the dollar, and of fifty or sixty millions in 
the gross to the foreign holders, and, virtual 
ly, a present of so much public land to them. 
It is in vain for the bill to say that the proceed*) 
of the lands are to be divided among the States. 
The indebted States will deliver their portion 
to their creditors ; they will send it to Europe , 
they will be nothing but the receivers-general 
and the sub- treasurers of the bankers and 
stockjobbers of London, Paris, and of Amster 



ANNO 1840. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



175 



dam. The proceeds of the sales of the lands 
will go to them. The hard money, wrung from 
the hard hand of the western cultivator, will 
go to these foreigners ; and the whole influence 
of these foreigners will be immediately directed 
to the enhancement of the price of our public 
lauds, and to the prevention of the passage of 
all the laws which go to graduate their price, 
or to grant pre-emptive rights to the settlers. 

What more unwise and more unjust than to 
contract debts on long time, as some of the 
States have done, thereby invading the rights 
and mortgaging the resources of posterity, and 
loading unborn generations with debts not 
their own 'I What more unwise than all this, 
which several of the States have done, and 
which the effort now is to make all do ? Be 
sides the ultimate burden in the shape of final 
payment, which is intended to fall upon pos 
terity, the present burden is incessant in the 
shape of annual interest, and falling upon each 
generation, equals the principal in every period 
ical return of ten or a dozen years. Few have 
calculated the devouring effect of annual in 
terest on public debts, and considered how soon 
it exceeds the principal. Who supposes that 
we have paid near three hundred millions of in 
terest on our late national debt, the principal 
of which never rose higher than one hundred 
and twenty-seven millions, and remained but 
a year or two at that ? Who supposes this ? 
Yet it is a fact that we have paid four hundred 
and thirty-one millions for principal and in 
terest of that debt ; so that near three hundred 
millions, or near double the maximum amount 
of the debt itself, must have been paid in in 
terest alone; and this at a moderate interest 
varying from three to six per cent, and payable 
at home. The British national debt owes its 
existence entirely to this policy. It was but a 
trifle in the beginning of the last century, and 
might have been easily paid during the reigns 
of the first and second George ; but the policy 
was to fund it, that is to say, to pay the in 
terest annually, and send down the principal to 
posterity ; and the fruit of that policy is now 
seen in a debt of four thousand five hundred 
millions of dollars, two hundred and fifty mil 
lions of annual taxes, with some millions of 
people without bread ; while an army, a navy, 
and a police, sufficient to fight all Europe, is 
kept under pay, to hold in check and subordi 



nation the oppressed and plundered ranks of 
their own population. And this is the example 
which the transferors of the State debt would 
have us to imitate, and this the end to whicr 
they would bring us ! 

I do not dilate upon the evils of a foreign in 
fluence. They are written upon the historical 
page of every free government, from the most 
ancient to the most modern : they are among 
those most deeply dreaded, and most sedulous 
ly guarded against by the founders of the 
American Union. The constitution itself con 
tains a special canon directed against them. 
To prevent the possibility of this foreign influ 
ence, every species of foreign connection, de 
pendence, or employment, is constitutionally 
forbid to the whole list of our public functiona 
ries. The inhibition is express and fundamen 
tal, that " ?20 person holding any office of profit 
or trust under the United States shall, with 
out the consent of Congress, accept of any 
present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind 
whatever, from any ling, prince, or foreign 
State." All this was to prevent any foreign 
potentate from acquiring partisans or influence 
in our government to prevent our own citi 
zens from being seduced into the interests of 
foreign powers. Yet, to what purpose all these 
constitutional provisions against petty sove 
reignties, if we are to invite the moneyed power 
which is able to subsidize kings, princes, and 
potentates if we are to invite this new and 
master power into the bosom of our councils, 
give it an interest in controlling public opinion, 
in directing federal and State legislation, and in 
filling our cities and seats of government with 
its insinuating agents, and its munificent and 
lavish representatives? To what purpose all 
this wise precaution against the possibility of 
influence from the most inconsiderable German 
or Italian prince, if we are to invite the com 
bined bankers of England, France, and Holland, 
to take a position in our legislative halls, and 
by a simple enactment of a few words, to con 
vert their hundreds of millions into a thousand 
millions, and to take a lease of the labor and 
property of our citizens for generations to come ? 
The largest moneyed operation which we ever 
had with any foreign power, was that of the 
purchase of Louisiana from the Great Emperor. 
That was an affair of fifteen millions. It was 
insignificant and contemptible, compared to the 



176 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



hundreds of millions for which these bankers 
are now upon us. And are we, while guarded 
by the constitution against influence from an 
emperor and fifteen millions, to throw our 
selves open to the machinations of bankers, 
with their hundreds of millions ? 



CHAPTER XLV. 

DEATH OF GENERAL SAMUEL SMITH, OF MARY 
LAND ; AND NOTICE OF HIS LIFE AND CHAR 
ACTER. 

HE was eighteen years a senator, and nearly as 
long a member of the House near forty years 
in Congress: which speaks the estimation in 
which his fellow-citizens held him. He was 
thoroughly a business member, under all the 
aspects of that character : intelligent, well in 
formed, attentive, upright j a very effective 
speaker, without pretending to oratory : well 
read : but all his reading subordinate to com 
mon sense and practical views. At the age of 
more than seventy he was still one of the most 
laborious members, both in the committee room 
and the Senate : and punctual in his attendance 
in either place. He had served in the army of 
the Revolution, and like most of the men of 
that school, and of that date, had acquired the 
habit of punctuality, for which Washington was 
so remarkable that habit which denotes a well- 
ordered mind, a subjection to a sense of duty, 
and a considerate regard for others. He had 
been a large merchant in Baltimore, and was 
particularly skilled in matters of finance and 
commerce, and was always on committees 
charged with those subjects to which his clear 
head, and practical knowledge, lent light and 
order in the midst of the most intricate state 
ments. He easily seized the practical points on 
these subjects, and presented them clearly and 
intelligibly to the chamber. Patriotism, honor, 
and integrity were his eminent characteristics ; 
and utilitarian the turn of his mind ; and bene 
ficial results the object of his labors. He be 
longed to that order of members who, without 
classing with the brilliant, are nevertheless the 
most useful and meritorious. He was a work 
ing member ; and worked diligently, judicious 
ly, and honestly, for the public good. In poli 



tics he was democratic, and greatly relied upon 
by the Presidents Jefferson, Madison, and Mon 
roe. He was one of the last of the revolutionary 
stock that served in the Senate remaining there 
until 1833 above fifty years after that Declara 
tion of Independence which he had helped to 
make good, with his sword. Almost octogena 
rian, he was fresh and vigorous to the last, and 
among the most assiduous and deserving mem 
bers. He had acquired military reputation in 
the war of the Revolution, and was called by 
his fellow-citizens to take command of the local 
troops for the defence of Baltimore, when threat 
ened by the British under General Ross, in 
1814 and commanded successfully with the 
judgment of age and the fire of youth. At his 
death, his fellow-citizens of Baltimore erected a 
monument to his memory well due to him as 
one of her longest and most respected inhabit 
ants, as having been one of her eminent mer 
chants, often her representative in Congress, 
besides being senator ; as having defended her 
both in the war of the Revolution and in that of 
1812 ; and as having made her welfare and 
prosperity a special object of his care in all th 
situations of his life, both public and private. 



CHAPTER XLVI. 

SALT ; THE UNIVERSALITY OF ITS SUPPLY ; MYS 
TERY AND INDISPENSABILITY OF ITS USE 
TYRANNY AND IMPIETY OF ITS TAXATION 
SPEECH OF MR. BENTON : EXTRACTS. 



IT is probable that salt is the iprst abundant 
substance of our globe that it K> more abun 
dant than earth itself. Like other necessaries of 
life like air, and water, and food it is univer 
sally diffused, and inexhaustibly supplied. It 
is found in all climates, and in a great variety 
of forms. The waters hold it in solution ; the 
earth contains it in solid masses. Every sea 
contains it. It is found in all the boundless 
oceans which surround and penetrate the earth, 
and through all their fathomless depths. Many 
inland seas, lakes, ponds, and pools are impreg 
nated with it. Streams of saline water, in in 
numerable places, emerging from the bowels of 
the earth, approach its surface, and either issue 
from it in perennial springs, or are easily reached 



ANNO 1840. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



177 



by wells. In the depths of the earth itself it is 
found in solid masses of interminable extent. 
Thus inexhaustibly abundant, and universally 
diffused, the wisdom and goodness of Providence 
is further manifested in the cheapness and fa 
cility of the preparation of this necessary of life, 
for the use of man. In all the warm latitudes, 
and especially between the tropics, nature her 
self performs the work. The beams of the sun 
evaporate the sea water in all the low and shal 
low reservoirs, where it is driven by the winds, 
or admitted by the art of man ; and this evapo 
ration leaves behind a deposit of pure salt, 
ready for use, and costing very little more than 
the labor of gathering it up. In the interior, 
and in the colder latitudes, artificial heat is sub 
stituted for the beams of the sun : the simplest 
process of boiling is resorted to ; and where 
fuel is abundant, and especially coal, the pre 
paration of this prime necessary is still cheap 
and easy; and from six to ten cents the real 
bushel may be considered as the ordinary cost 
of production. Such is the bountiful and cheap 
supply of this article, which a beneficent Provi 
dence has provided for us. The Supreme Ruler 
of the Universe has done every thing to supply 
his creatures with it. Man, the fleeting shadow 
of an instant, invested with his little brief au 
thority, has done much to deprive them, of it. 
In all ages of the world, and in all countries, 
salt has been a subject, at different periods, of 
heavy taxation, and sometimes of individual or 
of government monopoly ; and precisely, because 
being an article that no man could do without, 
the government was sure of its tax, and the 
monopolizer of his price. Almost all nations, 
in some period of their history, have suffered 
the separate or double infliction of a tax, and a 
monopoly on its salt ; and, at some period, all 
have freed themselves, from one or both. At 
present, there remain but two countries which 
suffer both evils, our America, and the British 
East Indies. All others have got rid of the 
monopoly ; many have got rid of the tax. 
Among others, the very country from which we 
copied it, and the one above all others least able 
to do without the product of the tax. England, 
though loaded with debt, and taxed in every 
thing, is now free from the salt tax. Since 
1822, it has been totally suppressed ; and this 
necessary of life is now as free there as air 
and water. She even has a statute to guard 
VCL. II. 12 



its price, and common law to prevent its mo 
nopoly. 

This act was passed in 1807. The commor 
law of England punishes all monopolizers, fore- 
stallers, and regraters. The Parliament, in 1807, 
took cognizance of a reported combination to 
raise the price of salt, and examined the manu 
facturers on oath : and rebuked them. 

Mr. B. said that a salt tax was not only politi 
cally, but morally wrong : it was a species of 
impiety. Salt stood alone amidst the produc 
tions of nature, without a rival or substitute, 
and the preserver and purifier of all things. 
Most nations had regarded it as a mystic and 
sacred substance. Among the heathen nations 
of antiquity, and with the Jews, it was used in 
the religious ceremony of the sacrifices the head 
of the victim being sprinkled with salt and water 
before it was offered. Among the primitive 
Christians, it was the subject of Divine allusions, 
and the symbol of purity, of incorruptibility, 
and of perpetuity. The disciples of Christ were 
called " the salt of the earth ; " and no language, 
or metaphor, could have been more expressive 
of their character and mission pure in them 
selves, and an antidote to moral, as salt was to 
material corruption. Among the nations of the 
East salt always has been, and still is, the sym 
bol of friendship, and the pledge of inviolable 
fidelity. lie that has eaten another's salt, haa 
contracted towards his benefactor a sacred obli 
gation ; and cannot betray or injure him there 
after, without drawing upon himself (according 
to his religious belief) the certain effects of the 
Divine displeasure. "While many nations have 
religiously regarded this substance, all have 
abhorred its taxation ; and this sentiment, so 
universal, so profound, so inextinguishable in 
the human heart, is not to be overlooked by 
the legislator. 

Mr. B. concluded his speech with declaring 
implacable war against this tax, with all its ap 
purtenant abuses, of monopoly in one quarter 
of the Union, and of undue advantages in an 
other. He denounced it as a tax upon the en 
tire economy of NATURE and of ART a tax upon 
man and upon beast upon life and upon health 
upon comfort and luxury upon want and 
superfluity upon food and upon raiment on 
washing, and on cleanliness. He called it a 
heartless and tyrant tax, as inexorable as it was 
omnipotent and omnipresent j a tax which no 



178 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



economy could avoid no poverty could shun 
no privation escape no cunning elude no force 
resist no dexterity avert no curses repulse 
no prayers could deprecate. It was a tax which 
invaded the entire dominion of human opera- 
lions, falling with its greatest weight upon the 
most helpless, and the most meritorious ; and 
depriving the nation of benefits infinitely tran 
scending in value, the amount of its own pro 
duct. I devote myself, said Mr. B., to the extir 
pation of this odious tax, and its still more 
odious progeny the salt monopoly of the West. 
I war against them while they exist, and while 
I remain on this floor. Twelve years have passed 
away two years more than the siege of Troy 
lasted since I began this contest. Nothing 
disheartened by so many defeats, in so long a 
time, I prosecute the war with unabated vigor ; 
and, relying upon the goodness of the cause, 
firmly calculate upon ultimate and final success. 



CHAPTER XLVII. 

PAIKING OFF. 

AT this time, and in the House of Representa 
tives, was exhibited for the first time, the spec 
tacle of members "pairing off? as the phrase 
was ; that is to say, two members of opposite 
political parties agreeing to absent themselves 
from the duties of the House, without the con 
sent of the House, and without deducting their 
per diem pay during the time of such voluntary 
absence. Such agreements were a clear breach 
of the rules of the House, a disregard of the 
constitution, and a practice open to the grossest 
abuses. An instance of the kind was avowed 
on the floor by one of the parties to the agree 
ment, by giving as a reason for not voting that 
he had " paired off" with another member, 
whose affairs required him to go home. It was 
a strange annunciation, and called for rebuke ; 
and there was a member present who had the 
spirit to administer it ; and from whom it came 
with the greatest propriety on account of his 
age and dignity, and perfect attention to all his 
duties as a member, both in his attendance in 
the House and in the committee rooms. That 
member was Mr. John Quincy Adams, who im 



mediately proposed to the House the adoption 
of this resolution : " Resolved, that the practice 
first openly avowed at the present session of 
Congress, of pairing off, involves, on the part of 
the members resorting to it, the violation of the 
constitution of the United States, of an express 
rule of this House, and of the duties of both 
parties in the transaction to their immediate 
constituents, to this House, and to their coun 
try." This resolve was placed on the calendar 
to take its turn, but not being reached during 
the session, was not voted upon. That was the 
first instance of this reprehensible practice, fifty 
years after the government had gone into opera 
tion ; but since then it has become common, 
and even inveterate, and is carried to great 
length. Members pair off, and do as they please 
either remain in the city, refusing to attend 
to any duty, or go off together to neighboring 
cities ; or separate ; one staying and one going ; 
and the one that remains sometimes standing 
up in his place, and telling the Speaker of the 
House that he had paired off; and so refusing to 
vote. There is no justification for such conduct, 
and it becomes a facile way for shirking duty, 
and evading responsibility. If a member is un 
der a necessity to go away the rules of the House 
require him to ask leave ; and the journals of 
the early Congresses are full of such applications. 
If he is compelled to go, it is his misfortune, 
and should not be communicated to another. 
This writer had never seen an instance of it in 
the Senate during his thirty years of service 
there; but the practice has since penetrated 
that body; and" pairing off" has become as 
common in that House as in the other, in pro 
portion to its numbers, and with an aggravation 
of the evil, as the absence of a senator is a loss 
to his State of half its weight. As a conse 
quence, the two Houses are habitually found 
voting with deficient numbers often to the ex 
tent of a third often with a bare quorum. 

In the first age of the government no member 
absented himself from the serv ; ce of the House 
to which he belonged without first asking, and 
obtaining its leave ; or, if called off suddenly, a 
colleague was engaged to state the circumstance 
to the House, and ask the leave. In the journals 
of the two Houses, for the first thirty years of 
the government, there is, in the index, a regular 
head for " absent without leave ; " and, turning 
to the indicated page, every such name will be 



ANNO 1840. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



179 



seen. That head in the index has disappeared 
H later times. I recollect no instance of leave 
asked since the last of the early members 
the Macons, Randolphs, Rufus Kings, Samuel 
Smiths, and John Taylors of Caroline disap 
peared from the halls of Congress. 



CHAPTER XLVIII. 

TAX ON BANK NOTES : MR. BENTON'S SPEECH : 
EXTRACTS : 

MR. BENTON brought forward his promised 
motion for leave to bring in a bill to tax the 
circulation of banks and bankers, and of all cor 
porations, companies or individuals which issued 
paper currency. He said nothing was more 
reasonable than to require the moneyed interest 
which was employed in banking, and especially 
in that branch of banking which was dedicated 
to the profitable business of converting lamp 
black and rags into money, to contribute to the 
support of the government. It was a large in 
terest, very able, and very proper, to pay taxes, 
and which paid nothing on their profitable issues 
profitable to them injurious to the country. 
It was an interest which possessed many privi 
leges over the rest of the community by law ; 
which usurped many others which the laws did 
not grant ; which, in fact, set the laws and the 
government at defiance whenever it pleased ; and 
which, in addition to all these privileges and ad 
vantages, was entirely exempt from federal taxa 
tion. While the producing and laboring classes 
were all taxed ; while these meritorious classes, 
with their small incomes, were taxed in their com 
forts and necessaries in their salt, iron, sugar, 
blankets, hats, coats and shoes, and so many 
other articles the banking interest, which dealt 
in hundreds of millions, which manufactured 
and monopolized money, which put up and put 
down prices, and held the whole country sub 
ject to its power, and tributary to its wealth, 
paid nothing. This was wrong in itself, and 
unjust to the rest of the community. It was 
an error or mistake in government which he had 
long intended to bring to the notice of the Sen 
ate and the country ; and he judged the present 
conjuncture to bo a proper time for doing it. 
Revenue is wanted. A general revision of the 



tariff is about to take place. An adjustment of 
the taxes for a long period is about to be made. 
This is the time to bring forward the banking 
interest to bear their share of the public bur 
dens, and the more so, as they are now in the 
fact of proving themselves to be a great burden 
on the public, and the public mind is beginning 
to consider whether there is any way to make 
them amenable to law and government. 

In other countries, Mr. B. said, the banking 
interest was subject to taxation. He knew of no 
country in which banking was tolerated, except 
our own, in which it was not taxed. In Great 
Britain that country from which we borrow 
the banking system the banking interest pays 
its fair and full proportion of the public taxes : 
it pays at present rear four millions of dollars. 
It paid in 1836 the sum of $3,725,400 : in 1837 
it paid $3,594,300. These were the last years 
for which he had seen the details of the British 
taxation, and the amounts he had stated com 
prehended the bank tax upon the whole united 
kingdom : upon Scotland and Ireland, as well 
as upon England and Wales. It was a hand 
some item in the budget of British taxation, and 
was levied on two branches of the banking 
business : on the circulation, and on bills of ex 
change. In the bill which he intended to bring 
forward, the circulation alone was proposed to 
be taxed ; and, in that respect, the paper sys 
tem would still remain more favored here than 
it was in Great Britain. 

In our own country, Mr. B. said, the banking 
interest had formerly been taxed, and that in all 
its branches; in its circulation, its discounts, 
and its bills of exchange. This was during the 
late war with Great Britain ; and though the 
banking business was then small compared to 
what it is now, yet the product of the tax was 
considerable, and well worth the gathering : it 
was about $500,000 per annum. At the end of 
the war thils tax was abolished ; while most of 
the war taxes, laid at the same time, for the 
same purpose, and for the same period, were 
continued in force; among them the tax on 
salt, and other necessaries of life. By a perver 
sion of every principle of righteous taxation, the 
tax on banks was abolished, and that on salt 
was continued. This has remained the case foi 
twenty-five years, and it is time to reverse the 
proceeding. It is time to make the banks pay 
and to let salt go free. 



180 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



Mr. B. next stated the manner of levying the 
bank tax at present in Great Britain, which he 
said was done with great facility and simplicity. 
It was a levy of a fixed sum on the average cir 
culation of the year, which the bank was re 
quired to give in for taxation like any other 
property, and the amount collected by a distress 
warrant if not paid. This simple and obvious 
method of making the levy, had been adopted 
in 1815, and had been followed ever since. Be 
fore that time it was effected through the instru 
mentality of a stamp duty ; a stamp being re 
quired for each note, but with the privilege of 
compounding for a gross sum. In 1815 the op 
tion of compounding was dropped: a gross 
amount was fixed by law as the tax upon every 
million of the circulation; and this change in 
the mode of collection has operated so benefi 
cially that, though temporary at first, it has been 
made permanent. The amount fixed was at the 
rate of 3,500 for every million. This was for 
the circulation only : a separate, and much 
heavier tax was laid upon bills of exchange, to 
be collected by a stamp duty, without the privi 
lege of composition. 

Mr. B. here read, from a recent history of the 
Bank of England, a brief account of the taxation 
of the circulation of that institution for the last 
fifty years from 1790 to the present time. It 
was at that time that her circulation began to 
be taxed, because at that time only did she 
begin to have a circulation which displaced the 
specie of the country. She then began to issue 
notes under ten pounds, having been first char 
tered with the privilege of issuing none less than 
one hundred pounds. It was a century from 
1694 to 1790 before she got down to 5, and 
afterwards to 2, and to 1 ; and from that time 
the specie basis was displaced, the currency 
convulsed, and the banks suspending and break 
ing. The government indemnified itself, in a 
small degree, for the mischiefs of the pestiferous 
currency which it had authorized ; and the ex 
tract which he was about to read was the his 
tory of the taxation on the Bank of England 
notes which, commencing at the small composi 
tion of 12,000 per annum, now amounts to a 
large proportion of the near four millions of 
dollars which the paper system pays annually 
to the British Treasury. He read : 

ri The Bank, till lately, has always been par- 
,icularly favored in the composition which they 



paid for stamp duties. In 1791, they paid 
composition of 12,000 per annum, in lieu of al 
stamps, either on bill or notes. In 1799, on an 
increase of the stamp duty, their composition 
was advanced to 20,000 ; and an addition of 
4,000 for notes issued under 5, raised the 
whole to 24,000. In 1804, an addition of not 
less than fifty per cent, was made to the stamp 
duty; but, although the Bank circulation of 
notes under 5 had increased from one and a 
half to four and a half millions, the whole 
composition was only raised from 24,000 to 
32,000. In 1808, there was a further increase 
of thirty-three per cent, to the stamp duty, at 
which time the composition was raised from 
32,000 to 42,000. In both these instances, 
the increase was not in properties even to the 
increase of duty ; and no allowance whatever 
was made for the increase in the amount of the 
bank circulation. It was not till the session 
of 1815, on a further increase of the stamp duty, 
that the new principle was established, and the 
Bank compelled to pay a composition in some 
proportion to the amount of their circulation. 
The composition is now fixed as follows : Upon 
the average circulation of the preceding year, 
the Bank is to pay at the rate of 3,500 per 
million, on their aggregate circulation, without 
reference to the different classes and value of 
their notes. The establishment of this princi 
ple, it is calculated, caused a saving to the pub 
lic, in the years 1815 and 1816, of 70,000. 
By the neglect of this principle, which ought to 
have been adopted in 1799, Mr. Ricardo esti 
mated the public to have been losers, and the 
Bank consequently gainers, of no less a sum 
than half a million." 

Mr. B. remarked briefly upon the equity of 
this tax, the simplicity of its levy since 1815, 
and its large product. He deemed it the proper 
model to be followed in the United States, un 
less we should go on the principle of copying 
all that was evil, and rejecting all that was 
good in the British paper system. We bor 
rowed the banking system from the English, 
with all its foreign vices, and then added others 
of our own to it. England has suppressed the 
pestilence of notes under 5 (near $25) j we 
retain small notes down to a dollar, and thence 
to the fractional parts of a dollar. She has 
taxed all notes ; and those under 5 she taxed 
highest while she had them ; we, on the con 
trary, tax none. The additional tax of 4,000 
on the notes under 5 rested on the fair prin 
ciple of taxing highest that which was most 
profitable to the owner, and most injurious to 
the country. The small notes fell within that 
category, and therefore paid highest. 

Having thus shown that bank circulation 



ANNO 1840. MARTIN VAN" BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



181 



was now taxed in Great Britain, and had been 
for fifty years, he proceeded to show that it 
had also been taxed in the United States. 
This was in the year 1813. In the month of 
August of that year, a stamp-act was passed, 
applicable to banks and to bankers, and taxing 
them in the three great branches of their busi 
ness, to wit : the circulation, the discounts, and 
the bills of exchange. On the circulation, the 
tax commenced at one cent on a one dollar 
note, and rose gradually to fifty dollars on 
notes exceeding one thousand dollars ; with the 
privilege of compounding for a gross sum in 
lieu of the duty. On the discounts, the tax 
began at five cents on notes discounted for one 
hundred dollars, and rose gradually to five dol 
lars on notes of eight thousand dollars and up 
wards. On bills of exchange, it began at five 
cents on bills of fifty dollars, and rose to five 
dollars on those of eight thousand dollars and 
upwards. 

Such was the tax, continued Mr, B., which 
the moneyed interest, employed in banking, 
;vas required to pay in 1813. and which it con 
tinued to pay until 1817. In that year the 
banks were released from taxation, while taxes 
were continued upon all the comforts and ne 
cessaries of life. Taxes are now continued 
ipon articles of prime necessity upon salt 
even and the question will now go before the 
Senate and country, whether the banking in 
terest, which has now grown so rich and pow 
erful which monopolizes the money of the 
country beards the government makes dis 
tress or prosperity when it pleases the ques 
tion is now come whether this interest shall 
continue to be exempt from tax, while every 
thing else has to pay. 

Mr. B. said he did not know how the bank 
ing interest of the present day would relish a 
proposition to make them contribute to the 
support of the government. He did not know 
how they would take it ; but he did know how 
a banker of the old school one who paid on 
sight, according to his promise, and never broke 
a promise to the holder of his notes he did 
know how such a banker viewed the act of 
1813 ; and he would exhibit his behavior to the 
Senate ; he spoke of the late Stephen Girard 
of Philadelphia ; and he would let him speak 
for himself by reading some passages from a pe 



tition which he presented to Congress the year 
after the tax on bank notes was laid. 
Mr. B. read : 

" That your memorialist has established a 
bank in the city of Philadelphia, upon the foun 
dation of his own individual fortune and credit, 
and for his own exclusive emolument, and that 
he is willing most cheerfully to contribute, in 
common with his fellow-citizens throughout 
the United States, a full proportion of the taxes 
which have been imposed for the support of the 
national government, according to the profits 
of his occupation and the value of his estate ; 
but a construction has been given to the acts 
of Congress laying duties on notes of banks, 
&c., from which great difficulties have occurred, 
and great inequalities daily produced to the 
disadvantage of his bank, that were not, it is 
confidently believed, within the contemplation 
of the legislature. And your memorialist hav 
ing submitted these considerations to the wis 
dom of Congress, respectfully prays, that the act 
of Congress may be so amended as to permit 
the Secretary of the Treasury to enter into a 
composition for the stamp duty, in the case of 
private bankers, as well as in the case of corpo 
rations and c ompanies, or so as to render the 
duty equal in its operations upon every deno 
mination of bankers." 

Mr. B. had read these passages from Mr. Gi- 
rard's petition to Congress in 1814, first, fop 
the purpose of showing the readiness with 
which a banker of the old school paid the taxes 
which the government imposed upon his busi 
ness ; and, next, to show the very considerable 
amount of that tax, which on the circulation 
alone amounted to ten thousand dollars on the 
million. All this, with the additional tax on 
the discounts, and on the bills of exchange, Mr. 
Girard was entirely willing to pay, provided all 
paid alike. All he asked was equality of taxa 
tion, and that he might have the benefit of the 
same composition which was allowed to incor 
porated banks. This was a reasonable request, 
and was immediately granted by Congress. 

Mr. B, said revenue was one object of his 
bill : the regulation of the currency by the sup 
pression of small notes and the consequent 
protection of the constitutional currency, waa 
another : and for that purpose the tax was pro 
posed to be heaviest on notes under twenty 
dollars, and to be augmented annually until ii 
accomplished its object. 



182 



THIRTY YEARS' VIETV. 



CHAPTER XLIX. 

LIBERATION OF SLAVES BELONGING TO AMERI 
CAN CITIZENS IN BRITISH COLONIAL PORTS. 

Tip to this time, and within a period of ten 
years, three instances of this kind had occurred. 
First, that of the schooner Comet. This ves 
sel sailed from the District of Columbia in the 
year 1830, destined for New Orleans, having, 
among other things, a number of slaves on 
board. Her papers were regular, and the voy 
age in all respects lawful. She was stranded 
on one of the false keys of the Bahama Islands, 
opposite to the coast of Florida, and almost in 
sight of our own shores. The persons on board, 
including the slaves, were taken by the wreck 
ers, against the remonstrance of the captain and 
the owners of the slaves, into Nassau, New 
Providence one of the Bahama Islands ; where 
the slaves were forcibly seized and detained by 
the local authorities. The second was the case 
of the Encomium. She sailed from Charleston 
in 1834, destined to New Orleans, on a voyage 
lawful and regular, and was stranded near the 
same place, and with the same fate with the 
Comet. She was carried into Nassau, where 
the slaves were also seized and detained by the 
local authorities. The slaves belonged to the 
Messrs. Waddell of North Carolina, among the 
most respectable inhabitants of the State, and 
on their way to Louisiana with a view to a per 
manent settlement in that State. The third 
case was that of the Enterprize, sailing from 
the District of Columbia in 1835, destined for 
Charleston, South Carolina, on a lawful voyage 
and with regular papers. She was forced una 
voidably, by stress of weather, into Port Ham 
ilton, Bermuda Island, where the slaves on 
board were forcibly seized and detained by the 
local authorities. The owners of the slaves 
protesting in vain, at the time, and in every in 
stance, against this seizure of their property 
afterwards applied to their own government for 
redress ; and after years of negotiation with 
Great Britain, redress was obtained in the two 
first cases the full value of the slaves being 
delivered to the United States, to be paid to the 
owners. This was accomplished during Mr. 
Van Buren's administration, the negotiation 



isfving commenced under that of President 
Jackson. Compensation in the case of the En 
terprize had been refused ; and the reason given 
for the distinction in the cases, was, that the 
two first happened during the time that slavery 
existed in the British West India colonies the 
atter after its abolition there. All these were 
coasting voyages between one port of the United 
States and another, and involved practical ques 
tions of great interest to all the slave States. 
Mr. Calhoun brought the question before tho 
Senate in a set of resolutions which he drew up 
for the occasion; and which were in these 
words : 

" Resolved, That a ship or a vessel on the 
high seas, in time of peace, engaged in a lawful 
voyage, is, according to the laws of nations, un 
der the exclusive jurisdiction of the State to 
which her flag belongs ; as much so as if con 
stituting a part of its own domain. 

" Resolved, That if such ship or vessel should 
be forced by stress of weather, or other una 
voidable cause, into the port of a friendly 
power, she would, under the same laws, lose 
none of the rights appertaining to her on the 
high seas ; but, on the contrary, she and her 
cargo and persons on board, with their proper 
ty, and all the rights belonging to their per 
sonal relations, as established by the laws of the 
State to which they belong, would be placed 
under the protection which the laws of nations 
extend to the unfortunate under such circum 
stances. 

" Resolved, That the brig Enterprize, which 
was forced unavoidably by stress of weather 
into Port Hamilton, Bermuda Island, while on 
a lawful voyage on the high seas from one port 
of the Union to another, comes within the prin 
ciples embraced in the foregoing resolutions ; 
and that the seizure and detention of the ne 
groes on board by the local authority of the 
island, was an act in violation of the laws of 
nations, and highly unjust to our own citizens 
to whom they belong." 

It was in this latter case that Mr. Calhoun 
wished to obtain the judgment of the Senate, 
and the point he had to argue was, whether a 
municipal regulation of Great Britain could al 
ter the law of nations ? Under that law she 
made .indemnity for the slaves liberated in the 
two first cases : under her own municipal law 
she denied it in the latter case. The distinc 
tion taken by the British minister was, that in 
the first cases, slavery existing in this British 
colony and recognized by law, the persons com 
ing in with their slaves had a property in them 
which had been divested: in the latter case 



ANNO 1840. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



183 



that slavery being no longer recognized ID this 
colony, there was no property in them after 
their arrival ; and consequently no rights di 
vested. Mr. Calhoun admitted that would be 
the case if the entrance had been voluntary ; 
but denied it where the entrance was forced ; 
as in this case. His argument was : 

" I object not to the rule. If our citizens had 
no right to their slaves, at any time after they 
entered the British territory that is, if the 
mere fact of entering extinguished all right to 
them (for that is the amount of the rule) 
they could, of course, have no claim on the 
British government, for the plain reason that 
the local authority, in seizing and detaining the 
negroes, seized and detained what, by supposi 
tion, did not belong to them. That is clear 
enough ; but let us see the application : it is 
given in a few words. He says : ' Now the 
owners of the slaves on board the Enterprize 
never were lawfully in possession of those 
slaves within the British territory ; ' assigning 
for reason, ' that before the Enterprize arrived 
at Bermuda, slavery had been abolished in the 
British empire ' an assertion which I shall 
show, in a subsequent part of my remarks, to 
be erroneous. From that, and that alone, he 
comes to the conclusion, ' that the negroes on 
board the Enterprize had, by entering within 
the British jurisdiction, acquired rights which 
the local courts were bound to protect.' Such 
certainly would have been the case if they had 
been brought in, or entered voluntarily. He 
who enters voluntarily the territory of another 
State, tacitly submits himself, with all his 
rights, to its laws, and is as much bound to 
submit to them as its citizens or subjects. No 
one denies that ; but that is not the present 
case. They entered not voluntarily, but from 
necessity ; and the very point at issue is, 
whether the British municipal laws could di 
vest their owners of property in their slaves on 
entering British territory, in cases such as the 
Enterprize, when the vessel has been forced 
into their territory by necessity, through an 
act of Providence, to save the lives of those on 
board. We deny they can, and maintain the 
opposite ground: that the law of nations in 
such cases interposes and protects the vessel 
and those on board, with their rights, against 
the municipal laws of the State, to which they 
have never submitted, and to which it would 
be cruel and inhuman, as well as unjust, to sub 
ject them. Such is clearly the point at issue 
between the two governments ; and it is not 
less clear, that it is the very point assumed by 
the British negotiator in the controversy." 

This is fair reasoning upon the law of the 
sase. and certainly left the law of nations in 
full force in favor of the American owners. 



The equity of the case was also fully stated, 
and the injury shown to be of a practical kind, 
which self-protection required the United States 
to prevent for the future. In this sense, Mr. 
Calhoun argued : 

' : To us this is not a mere abstract question, 
nor one simply relating to the free use of the 
high seas. It comes nearer home. It is one 
of free and safe passage from one port to 
another of our Union ; as much so to us, as a 
question touching the free and safe use of the 
channels between England and Ireland on the 
one side, and the opposite coast of the continent 
on the other, would be to Great Britain. To 
understand its deep importance to us, it must 
be borne in mind, that the island of Bermuda 
lies but a short distance off our coast, and that 
the channel between the Bahama islands and 
Florida is not less than two hundred miles in 
length, and on an average not more than fifty 
wide ; and that through this long, narrow and 
difficult channel, the immense trade between 
our ports on the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlan 
tic coast must pass, which, at no distant period, 
will constitute more than half of the trade or 
the Union. The principle set up by the British 
government, if carried out to its full extent, 
would do much to close this all-important 
channel, by rendering it too hazardous for use. 
She has only to give an indefinite extension to 
the principle applied to the case of the Enter 
prize, and the work would be done ; and why 
has she not as good a right to apply it to a cap- 
go of sugar or cotton, as to the slaves who pro 
duced it." 

The resolutions were referred to the com 
mittee on foreign relations, which reported 
them back with some slight alteration, not af 
fecting or impairing their force; and in that 
form they were unanimously adopted by the 
Senate. Although there was no opposition to 
them, the importance of the occasion justified a 
record of the vote : and they were accordingly 
taken by yeas and nays or rather, by yeas : 
for there were no nays. This was one of the 
occasions on which the mind loves to dwell, 
when, on a question purely sectional and 
Southern, and wholly in the interest of slave 
property, there was no division of sentiment in 
the American Senate. 



184 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



CHAPTER L. 

RESIGNATION OF SENATOR HUGH LAWSON 
WHITE OF TENNESSEE: HIS DEATH: SOME 
NOTICE OF HIS LIFE AND CHARACTER. 

THIS resignation took place under circumstances, 
not frequent, but sometimes occurring in the 
Senate that of receiving instructions from the 
General Assembly of his State, which either op 
erate as a censure upon a senator, or require 
him to do something which either his con 
science, or his honor forbids. Mr. White at 
this time the session of 1839-'40 received 
instructions from the General Assembly of his 
State which affected him in both ways con 
demning past conduct, and prescribing a future 
course which he could not follow. He had 
been democratic from his youth came into the 
Senate had grown aged as such : but of late 
years had voted generally with the whigs on 
their leading measures, and classed politically 
with them in opposition to Mr. Van Buren. In 
these circumstances he received instructions to 
reverse his course of voting on these leading 
measures naming them ; and requiring him to 
support the administration of Mr. Van Buren. 
He consulted his self-respect, as well as obeyed 
a democratic principle ; and sent in his resigna 
tion. It was the conclusion of a public life 
which disappointed its whole previous course. 
From his youth he had been a popular man, 
and that as the fair reward of conduct, without 
practising an art to obtain it, or even seeming to 
know that he was winning it. Bred a lawyer, 
and coming early to the bar, he was noted for a 
probity, modesty and gravity with a learning, 
ability, assiduity and patience which marked 
him for the judicial bench: and he was soon pla 
ced upon it that of the Superior Court. After 
wards, when the judiciary of the State was re 
modelled, he was placed on the bench of the Su 
preme Court. It was considered a favor to the 
public to get him to take the place. That is well 
known to the writer of this View, then a mem 
ber of the General Assembly of Tennessee, and 
the author of the new modelled judiciary. He 
applied to Judge White, who had at that time 
eturned to the bar to know if he would take 



the place ; and considered the new system ao* 
credited with the public on receiving his an 
swer that he would. That was all that he had 
to do with getting the appointment : he waa 
elected unanimously by the General Assembly, 
with whom the appointment rested. That is 
about the way in which he received all his ap 
pointments, i 'jther from his State, or from the 
federal government merely agreeing to take 
the office if it was offered to him ; but not al 
ways agreeing to accept : often refusing as in 
the case of a cabinet appointment offered him 
by President Jackson, his political and perso 
nal friend of forty years' standing. It was long 
before he would enter a political career, but 
finally consented to become senator in the Con 
gress of the United States : always discharging 
the duties of soi office, when accepted, with the 
assiduity of a man who felt himself to be a ma 
chine in the hands of his duty ; and with an in 
tegrity of purpose which left his name without 
spot or stain. It is beautiful to contemplate 
such a career ; sad to see it set under a cloud 
in his advanced years. He became alienated 
from his old friends, both personally and politi 
cally even from General Jackson j and even 
tually fell under the censure of his State, as 
above related that State which, for more than 
forty years, had considered it a favor to itself 
that he should accept the highest offices in her 
gift. He resigned in January, and died in May 
his death accelerated by the chagrin of his 
spirit; for he was a man of strong feelings, 
though of such measured and quiet deportment. 
His death was announced in the Senate by the 
senator who was his colleague at the time of 
his resignation Mr. Alexander Anderson j and 
the motion for the usual honors to his memory 
was seconded by Senator Preston, who pro 
nounced on the occasion a eulogium on the de 
ceased as just as it was beautiful. 

" I do not know, Mr. President, whether I 
am entitled to the honor I am about to assume 
in seconding the resolutions which have just 
been offered by the senator from Tennessee, in 
honor of his late distinguished colleague ; and 
yet, sir, I am not aware that any one present is 
more entitled to this melancholy honor, if it 
belongs to long acquaintance, to sincere admi 
ration, and to intimate intercourse. If these 
circumstances do not entitle me to speak, I am 
sure every senator will feel, in the emotions 
which swell his own bosom, an apology for my 
desire to relieve my own, by bearing testimony 



ANNO 1840. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



185 



to the virtues and talents, the long services and 
great usefulness, of Judge White. 

" My infancy and youth were spent in a re 
gion contiguous to the sphere of his earlier 
fame and usefulness. As long as I can remem 
ber any thing, I remember the deep confidence 
lie had inspired as a wise and upright judge, in 
which station no man ever enjoyed a purer 
reputation, or established a more implicit reli 
ance in his abilities and honesty. There was 
an antique sternness and justness in his charac 
ter. By a general consent he was called Cato. 
Subsequently, at a period of our public affairs 
very analogous to the present, he occupied a 
position which placed him at the head of the 
financial institutions of East Tennessee. He 
sustained them by his individual character. 
The name of Hugh L. White was a guarantee 
that never failed to attract confidence. Insti 
tutions were sustained by the credit of an indi 
vidual, and the only wealth of that individual 
was his character. From this more limited 
sphere of usefulness and reputation, he was first 
brought to this more conspicuous stage as a 
member of an important commission on the 
Spanish treaty, in which he was associated with 
Mr. Tazewell and Mr. King. His learning, his 
ability, his firmness, and industry, immediately 
extended the sphere of his reputation to the 
boundaries of the country. Upon the comple 
tion of that duty, he came into this Senate. 
Of his career here, I need not speak. His grave 
and venerable form is even now before us that 
air of patient attention, of grave deliberation, of 
unrelaxed firmness. Here his position was of 
the highest beloved, respected, honored; al 
ways in his place always prepared for the 
business in hand always bringing to it the 
treasured reflections of a sedate and vigorous 
understanding. Over one department of our 
deliberations he exercised a very peculiar con 
trol. In the management of our complex and 
difficult relations with the Indians we all de 
ferred to him, and to this he addressed himself 
with unsparing labor, and with a wisdom, a pa 
tient benevolence, that justified and vindicated 
the confidence of the Senate. 

" In private life he was amiable and ardent. 
The current of his feelings was warm and 
strong. His long familiarity with public af 
fairs had not damped the natural ardor of his 
temperament. We all remember the deep feel 
ing with which he so recently took leave of this 
body, and how profoundly that feeling was re 
ciprocated. The good will, the love, the respect 
which we bestowed upon him then, now give 
depth and energy to the mournful feelings with 
which we offer a solemn tribute to his memo- 
iy. 

And here this notice would stop if it was the 
iesign of this work merely to write on the out- 
B^de of history merely to chronicle events; 
but that is not the design. Inside views are 



the main design : and this notice of Senatol 
White's life and character would be very im 
perfect, and vitally deficient, if it did not tell 
how it happened that a man so favored by his 
State during a long life should have lost that 
favor in his last days received censure from 
those who had always given praise and gone 
to his grave under a cloud after having lived in 
sunshine. The reason is briefly told. In his 
advanced age he did the act which, with all old 
men, is an experiment ; and, with most of them, 
an unlucky one. He married again : and this 
new Wife having made an immense stride from 
the head of a boarding-house table to the head 
of a senator's table, could see no reason why 
she should not take one step more, and that 
comparatively short, and arrive at the head of 
the presidential table. This was before the 
presidential election of 1836. Mr. Van Buren 
was the generally accepted democratic candi 
date : he was foremost of all the candidates : 
and the man who is ahead of all the rest, on 
such occasions, is pretty sure to have a com 
bination of all the rest against him. Mr. Van 
Buren was no exception to this rule. The 
whole whig party wished to defeat him : that 
was a fair wish. Mr. Calhoun's party wished to 
defeat him : that was invidious : for they could 
not elect Mr. Calhoun by it. Many professing 
democrats wished to defeat him, though for the 
benefit of a whig : and that was a movement 
towards the whig camp where most of them 
eventually arrived. All these parties combined, 
and worked in concert ; and their line of opera 
tions was through the vanity of the victim's 
wife. They excited her vain hopes. And this 
modest, unambitious man, who had spent all his 
life in resisting office pressed upon him by his 
real friends, lost his power of resistance in his 
old age, and became a victim to the combina 
tion against him which all saw, and deplored, 
except himself. As soon as he was committed, 
and beyond extrication, one of the co-operators 
against him, a whig member of Congress from 
Kentucky a witty, sagacious man of good tact 
in the exultation of his feelings wrote the 
news to a friend in his district, who, in a still 
higher state of exultation, sent it to the news 
papersthus : " Judge White is on the track, 
running gayly, and won't come off ; and if ha 
would, his wife won't let him." This was the 
whole story, briefly and cheerily told and tru- 



186 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



ly. He ran the race ! without prejudice to Mr. 
Van Buren without benefit to the whig can 
didates without support from some who had 
incited him to the trial : and with great politi 
cal and social damage to himself. 

Long an inhabitant of the same State with 
Judge White indebted to him for my law li 
cense moving in the same social and political 
circle accustomed to respect and admire him 
sincerel} 7 " friendly to him, and anxious for his 
peace and honor, I saw with pain the progress 
of the movement against him, and witnessed 
with profound grief its calamitous consumma 
tion. 



CHAPTER LI. 

DEATH OF EX-SENATOR HAYNE OF SOUTH CAR 
OLINA : NOTICE OF HIS LIFE AND CHARAC 
TER. 

NATURE had lavished upon him all the gifts 
which lead to eminence in public, and to happi 
ness, in private life. Beginning with the person 
and manners minor advantages, but never to 
be overlooked when possessed he was entirely 
fortunate in these accessorial advantages. His 
person was of the middle size, slightly above it 
in height, well proportioned, flexible and grace 
ful. His face was fine the features manly, 
well formed, expressive, and bordering on the 
handsome : a countenance ordinarily thought 
ful and serious, but readily lighting up, when 
accosted, with an expression of kindness, intel 
ligence, cheerfulness, and an inviting amiability. 
His face was then the reflex of his head and 
his heart, and ready for the artist who could 
seize the moment to paint to the life. His 
manners were easy, cordial, unaffected, affable ; 
and his address so winning, that the fascinated 
stranger was taken captive at the first saluta 
tion. These personal qualities were backed by 
those of the mind all solid, brilliant, practical, 
and utilitarian : and always employed on use 
ful objects, pursued from high motives, and by 
fair and open means. His judgment was good, 
and he exercised it in the serious consideration 
of whatever business he was engaged upon, 
with an honest desire to do what was right, 
and a laudablo ambition to achieve an honora 
ble fame. He had a copious and ready elocu 
tion, flowing at will in a strong and steady cur 



rent, and rich in the material which constitute* 
argument. His talents were various, and shone 
in different walks of life, not often united : em 
inent as a lawyer, distinguished as a senator : 
a writer as well as a speaker : and good at the 
council table. All these advantages were en 
forced by exemplary morals ; and improved by 
habits of study, moderation, temperance, self- 
control, and addiction to business. There was 
nothing holiday, or empty about him no lying 
in to be delivered of a speech of phrases. Prac 
tical was the turn r>f his mind : industry an at 
tribute of his nature : labor an inherent impul 
sion, and a habit : and during his ten years of 
senatorial service his name TV as incessantly con 
nected with the business of the Senate. He 
was ready for all work speaking, writing, con 
sulting in the committee-room as well as in 
the chamber drawing bills and reports in pri 
vate, as well as shining in the public debate, and 
ready for the social intercourse of the evening 
when the labors of the day were over A de 
sire to do service to the country, and to earn 
just fame for himself, by working at useful ob 
jects, brought all these high qualities into con 
stant, active, and brilliant requisition. To do 
good, by fair means, was the labor of his sen 
atorial life ; and I can truly say that, in ten 
years of close association with him I never saw 
him actuated by a sinister motive, a selfish cal 
culation, or an unbecoming aspiration. 

Thus, having within himself so many quali 
ties and requisites for insuring advancement in 
life, he also had extrinsic advantages, auxiliary 
to talent, and which contribute to success in a 
public career. He was well descended, and bore 
a name dear to the South the synonym of honor, 
courage, and patriotism memorable for that 
untimely and cruel death of one of its revolu 
tionary wearers, which filled the country with 
pity for his fate, and horror fpr his British exe 
cutioners. The name of Hayne, pronounced 
any where in the South, and especially in South 
Carolina, roused a feeling of love and respect, 
and stood for a passport to honor, until deeds 
should win distinction. Powerfully and exten 
sively connected by blood and marriage, he had 
the generous support which family pride and 
policy extends to a promising scion of the con 
nection. He had fortune, which gave him the 
advantage of education, and of social position 
and left free to cultivate his talents, and to d 



ANNO 1840. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



187 



vote them to the public service. Resident in 
Charleston, still maintaining its colonial reputa 
tion for refined society, and high and various 
talent, he had every advantage of enlightened 
and elegant association. Twice happily married 
in congenial families (Pinckney and Alston), 
his domestic felicity was kept complete, his con 
nections extended, and fortune augmented. To 
crown all, and to give effect to every gift with 
which nature and fortune had endowed him, he 
had that further advantage, which the Grecian 
Plutarch never fails to enumerate when the 
case permits it, and which he considered so aux 
iliary to the advancement of some of the eminent 
men whose lives he commemorated the advan 
tage of being born in a State where native talent 
was cherished, and where the community made 
it a policy to advance and sustain a promising 
young man, as the property of the State, and 
for the good of the State. Such was, and is, 
South Carolina ; and the young Hayne had the 
full benefit of the generous sentiment. As fast 
as years permitted, he was advanced in the State 
government : as soon as age and the federal con 
stitution permitted, he came direct to the Senate, 
without passing through the House of Repre 
sentatives ; and to such a Senate as the body 
then was Rufus King, John Taylor of Caro 
line, Mr. Macon, John Gaillard, Edward Lloyd 
of Maryland, James Lloyd of Massachusetts, 
James Barbour of Virginia, General Jackson, 
Louis McLane of Delaware, Wm. Pinkney of 
Maryland, Littleton Waller Tazewell, Webster, 
Nathan Sandford, of New York, M. Van Buren, 
King of Alabama, Samuel Smith of Maryland, 
James Brown, and Henry Johnson of Louis 
iana; and many others, less known to fame, 
but honorable to the Senate from personal deco 
rum, business talent, and dignity of character. 
Hayne arrived among them ; and was con 
sidered by such men, and among such men, as 
an accession to the talent and character of the 
chamber. I know the estimate they put upon 
him, the consideration they had for him, and the 
future they pictured for him : for they were 
men to look around, and consider who were to 
carry on the government after they were gone. 
But the proceedings of the Senate soon gave the 
highest evidence of the degree of consideration 
in which he was held. In the very second year 

of his service, he was appointed to a high duty 

such as would belong to age and long service, 



as well as to talent and elevated character. II 
was made chairman of the select committee 
and select it wa~> which brought in the bill for 
the grants ($200,000 in money, and 24,000 acres 
of land), to Lafayette ; and as such became the 
organ of the expositions, as delicate as they 
were responsible, which reconciled such grants 
to the words and spirit of our constitution, and 
adjusted them to the merit and modesty of the 
receiver : a high function, and which he ful 
filled to the satisfaction of the chamber, ST-d the 
country. 

Six years afterwards he had the great debate 
with Mr. Webster a contest of many days, 
sustained to the last without losing its inter 
est (which bespoke fertility of resource, as 
well as ability in both speakers), and in which 
his adversary had the advantage of a more 
ripened intellect, an established national reputa 
tion, ample preparation, the choice of attack, and 
the goodness of the cause. Mr. Webster came 
into that field upon choice and deliberation, well 
feeling the grandeur of the occasion ; and pro 
foundly studying his part. He had observed 
during the summer, the signs in South Carolina, 
and marked the proceedings of some public 
meetings unfriendly to the Union ; and which 
he ran back to the incubation of Mr. Calhoun. 
He became the champion of the constitution 
and the Union, choosing his time and occasion, 
hanging his speech upon a disputed motion with 
which it had nothing to do, and which was im 
mediately lost sight of in the blaze and expan 
sion of a great national discussion : himself 
armed and equipped for the contest, glittering 
in the panoply of every species of parliamentary 
and forensic weapon solid argument, playful 
wit, biting sarcasm, classic allusion ; and strik 
ing at a new doctrine of South Carolina origin, 
in which Hayne was not implicated: but his 
friends were and that made him their defender. 
The speech was at Mr. Calhoun, then presiding 
in the Senate, and without right to reply. 
Hayne became his sword and buckler, and had 
much use for the latter to cover his friend hit 
by incessant blows cut by many thrusts : but 
he understood too well the science of defence in 
wordy as well as military digladiation to confine 
himself to fending off. He returned, as well aa 
received blows ; but all conducted courteously j 
and stings when inflicted gently extracted on 
either side by delicate compliments. Each 



188 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



morning he returned re-invigorated to the 
contest, like Antaeus refreshed, not from a 
fabulous contact with mother earth, but from 
a real communion with Mr. Calhoun ! the ac 
tual subject of Mr. Webster's attack : and from 
ihe well-stored arsenal of his powerful and 
subtle mind, he nightly drew auxiliary supplies. 
Friends relieved the combatants occasionally ; 
but it was only to relieve ; and the two princi 
pal figures remained nrominent to the last. To 
speak of the issue would be superfluous ; but 
there was much in the arduous struggle to con 
sole the younger senator. To cope with Web 
ster, was a distinction : not to be crushed by 
him, was almost a victory: to rival him in 
copious and graceful elocution, was to establish 
an equality at a point which strikes the masses : 
and Hayne often had the crowded galleries with 
him. But, equal argument ! that was impos 
sible. The cause forbid it, far more than dis 
parity of force ; and reversed positions would 
have reversed the issue. 

I have said elsewhere (Vol. I. of this work), 
that I deem Mr. Hayne to have been entirely 
sincere in professing nullification at that time 
only in the sense of the Virginia resolutions of 
'98-'99, as expounded by their authors : three 
years afterwards he left his place in the Senate 
to become Governor of South Carolina, to en 
force the nullification ordinance which the Gen 
eral Assembly of the State had passed, and 
against which President Jackson put forth his 
impressive proclamation. Up to this point, in 
writing this notice, the pen had run on with 
pride and pleasure pride in portraying a shin 
ing American character : pleasure in recalling 
recollections of an eminent man, whom I es 
teemed who did me the honor to call me friend ; 
and with whom I was intimate. Of all the 
senators he seemed nearest to me both young 
in the Senate, entering it nearly together ; born 
in adjoining States; not wide apart in age; a 
similarity of political principle : and, I may add, 
some conformity of tastes and habits. Of all 
the young generation of statesmen coming on, 
I considered him the safest the most like Wil 
liam Lowndes ; and best entitled to a future 
eminent lead. He was democratic, not in the 
modern sense of the term, as never bolting a 
caucus nomination, and never thinking differ 
ently from the actual administration; but on 
principle, as founded in a strict, in contradis 



tinction to a latitudinarian construction of th 
constitution ; and as cherishing simplicity and 
economy in the administration of the federal 
government, in contradistinction to splendor and 
extravagance. 

With his retiring from the Senate, Mr. Hayne's 
national history ceases. He does not appear af 
terwards upon the theatre of national affairs : 
but his practical utilitarian mind, and ardent 
industry, found ample and beneficent employ 
ment in some noble works of internal improve 
ment. The railroad system of South Carolina, 
with its extended ramifications, must admit him 
for its founder, from the zeal he carried into it, 
and the impulsion he gave it. He died in the 
meridian of his life, and in the midst of his use 
fulness, and in the field of his labors in west 
ern North Carolina, on the advancing line of the 
great iron railway, which is to connect the 
greatest part of the South Atlantic with the 
noblest part of the Valley of the Mississippi. 

The nullification ordinance, which he became 
Governor of South Carolina to enforce, was 
wholly directed against the tariff system of the 
time not merely against a protective tariff, but 
against its fruits undue levy of revenue, ex 
travagant expenditure ; and expenditure in ono 
quarter of the Union of what was levied upon 
the other. The levy and expenditure were then 
some twenty-five millions of dollars : they are 
now seventy-five millions : and the South, while 
deeply agitated for the safety of slave property 
(now as safe, and more valuable than ever, as 
proved by the witness which makes no mistakes, 
the market price) is quiet upon the evil which 
produced the nullification ordinance of 1832: 
quiet under it, although that evil is three timea 
greater now than then : and without excuse, as 
the present vast expenditure is the mere effect 
of mad extravagance. Is this quietude a con 
demnation of that ordinance ? or, is it of the 
nature of an imaginary danger which inflames 
the passions, that it should supersede the reai 
evil which affects the pocket ? If the Hayne of 
1824, and 1832, was now alive, I think his prac 
tical and utilitarian mind would be seeking a 
proper remedy for the real grievance, now so 
much greater than ever ; and that he would 
leave the fires of an imaginary danger to die out 
of themselves, for want of fuel. 



ANNO 1840. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



CHAPTER LI I. 

A.BOLITION OF SPECIFIC DUTIES BY THE COM 
PROMISE ACT OF 1833: ITS ERROR, AND LOSS 
TO THE REVENUE, SHOWN BY EXPERIENCE. 

THE introduction of the universal ad valorem 
system in 1833 was opposed and deprecated by 
practical men at the time, as one of those refined 
subtleties which, aiming at an ideal perfection, 
overlooks the experience of ages, and disregards 
the warnings of reason. Specific duties had 
been the rule ad valorems the exception 
from the beginning of the collection of custom 
house revenue. The specific duty was a ques 
tion in the exact sciences, depending upon a 
mathematical solution by weight, count, or mea 
sure: the ad valorem presented a question to 
the fallible judgment of men, sure to be diiferent 
at different places ; and subject, in addition to 
the fallibility of judgment, to the chances of 
ignorance, indifference, negligence and corrup 
tion. All this was urged against the act at the 
time, but in vain. It was a piece of legislation 
arranged out of doors christened a compro 
mise, which was to save the Union brought 
into the House to be passed without alteration : 
and was so passed, in defiance of all judgment and 
reason by the aid of the votes of those always a 
considerable per centum in every public body 
to whom the name of compromise is an irresist 
ible attraction : amiable men, who would do no 
wrong of themselves, and without whom the de 
signing could do but little wrong. Objections 
to this pernicious novelty (of universal ad valo 
rems), were in vain urged then: experience, 
with her enlightened voice, now came forward 
to plead against them. The act had been in 
force seven years : it had had a long, and a fair 
trial : and that safest of all juries Time and 
Experience now came forward to deliver their 
verdict. At this session ('39-'40) a message 
was sent to the House of Representatives by 
the President, covering reports from the Secre 
tary of the Treasury, and from the Comptroller 
of the Treasury, with opinions from the late 
Attorneys-general of the United States (Messrs. 
Benjamin F. Butler and Felix Grundy), and 
letters from the collectors of the customs in all 



the principal Atlantic ports, all relating to tho 
practical operation of the ad valorem system, 
and showing it to be unequal, uncertain, unsafe 
diverse in its construction injurious to the 
revenue open to unfair practices and greatly 
xpeneive from the number of persons required 
to execute it. The whole document may be 
profitably studied by all who deprecate unwise 
and pernicious legislation j but a selection of a 
'ew of the cases of injurious operation which it 
presents will be sufficient to give an idea of the 
whole. Three classes of goods are selected 
silks, linens, and worst d : all staple articles, 
and so well known as to be the least susceptible 
of diversity of judgment ; and yet on which, in 
the period of four years, a fraction over five 
millions of dollars had been lost to the Treasury 
from diversity of construction between the 
Treasury officers and the judiciary with the 
further prospective loss of one million and 
three-quarters in the ensuing three years if the 
act was not amended. The document, at page 
44, states the annual ascertained loss during four 
years' operation of the act on these classes of 
goods, to be : 

"In 1835 - $624,356 In 1837 - $463,090 
1836 - 847,162 1838 - 428.237 

" Making in the four years $2.362,845 ; and tho 
comptroller computes the annual prospective 
loss during the time the act may remain un 
altered, at $800,000. So much for silks ; now 
for linens. The same page, for the same four 
years, represents the annual loss on this article 
to be: 

In 1835 - $370,785 In 1837 - $303,241 
1836 - 516,988 1838 - 226,375 

"Making the sum of $1,411,389 on this article 
for the four years ; to which is to be added the 
estimated sum of $400,000, for the future an 
nual losses, if the act remains unaltered. 

" On worsted goods, for the same time, and on 
page 45, the report exhibits the losses thus : 

In 1835 - $409,329 In 1837 - $209,391 



1836 - 416,832 



1838 - 249,590 



" Making a total of ascertained loss on this 
head, in the brief space of four years, amount to 
the sum of $1,285,142; with a computation of 
a prospective loss of $500,000 per annum, while 
the compromise act remains as it is." 

Such were the losses from diversity of con 
struction alone on three classes of goods, in the 
short space of four years ; and these classes sta 
ple goods, composed of a single material. "When 



190 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



it came to articles of mixed material, the diversi 
ty became worse. Custom-house officers dis 
agreed : comptrollers and treasurers disagreed : 
attorneys-general disagreed. Courts were re 
ferred to, and their decision overruled all. Many 
importers stood suits ; and the courts and juries 
overruled all the officers appointed to collect the 
revenue. The government could only collect 
what they are allowed. Often, after paying 
the duty assessed, the party has brought his 
action and recovered a large part of it back. 
So that this ad valorem system, besides its 
great expense, its chance for diversity of opin 
ions among the appraisers, and its openness to 
corruption, also gave rise to differences among 
the highest administrative and law officers of 
the government, with resort to courts of law, in 
nearly all which the United States was the loser. 



3HAPTER LIII. 

EEFINED SUGAR AND RUM DRAWBACKS: THEIR 
ABUSE UNDER THE COMPROMISE ACT OF 1S33: 
MR. BENTON'S SPEECH. 

MR. BENTON rose to make the motion for which 
he had given notice on Friday last, for leave to 
bring in a bill to reduce the drawbacks allowed 
on the exportation of rum and refined sugars ; 
and the bounties and allowances to fishing ves 
sels, in proportion to the reduction which had 
been made, and should be made, in the duties 
upon imported sugars, molasses and salt, upon 
which these bounties and allowances were re 
spectively granted. 

Mr. B. said that the bill, for the bringing in 
of which he was about to ask leave, proposed 
some material alteration in the act of 1833, for 
the modification of the tariff, commonly called 
the compromise act ; and as that act was held 
by its friends to be sacred and inviolable, and 
entitled to run its course untouched and un 
altered, it became his duty to justify his bill in 
advance ; to give reasons for it before he ventur 
ed to submit the question of leave for its intro 
duction ; and to show, beforehand, that here was 
great and just cause for the measure he pro 
posed. 

Mr. B. said it would be recollected, by those 



who were contemporary with the event, ana 
might be seen by all who should now look into 
our legislative history of that day, that he was 
thoroughly opposed to the passage of the act of 
1833 ; that he preferred waiting the progress of 
Mr. Verplanck's bill ; that he opposed the compro 
mise act, from beginning to end ; made speeches 
against it, which were not answered ; uttered 
predictions of it, which were disregarded ; pro 
posed amendments to it, which were rejected ; 
showed it to be an adjournment, not a settle 
ment, of the tariff question ; and voted against 
it, on its final passage, in a respectable minority 
of eighteen. It was not his intention at this 
time to recapitulate all the objections which he 
then made to the act ; but to confint himself to 
two of those objections, and to those two of 
them, the truth and evils of which TIME had 
developed ; and for which evils the public goo<! 
demands an immediate remedy to be applied. 
He spoke of the drawbacks and allowances 
founded upon duties, which duties were to un 
dergo periodical reductions, while the draw 
backs and allowances remained undiminished ; 
and of the vague and arbitrary tenor of the act, 
which rendered it incapable of any regular, uni 
form, or safe execution. He should confine him 
self to these two objections ; and proceed to ex 
amine them in the order in which they were 
mentioned. 

At page 208 of the Senate journal, session of 
1832-33, is seen this motion : " Moved by Mr. 
Benton to add to the bill a section in the fol 
lowing words : ' That all drawbacks allowed 
on the exportation of articles manufactured in 
the United States from materials imported 
from foreign countries, and subject to duty, 
shall be reduced in proportion to the reduction 
of duties provided for in this act?" The par 
ticular application of this clause, as explained 
and enforced at the time, was to sugar and mo 
lasses, and the refined sugar, and the rum man 
ufactured from them. 

As the laws then stood, and according to the 
principle of all drawbacks, the exporters of these 
refined sugars and rum were allowed to draw 
back from the Treasury precisely as much money 
as had been paid into the Treasury on the im 
portation of the article out of which the export 
ed article was manufactured. This was the 
principle, and this was the law ; and so rigidly 
was this insisted upon by the manufacturing 



ANNO 1840. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



191 



and exporting interest, that only four years be 
fore the compromise act, namely, in 1829, the 
drawback on refined sugars exported was raised 
from four to ^ve cents a pound upon the motion 
of General Smith, a then senator from Mary 
land ; and this upon an argument and a calcula 
tion made by him to show that the quantity of 
raw sugar contained in every pound of refined 
sugar, had, in reality, paid five instead of four 
cents duty. My motion appeared to me self- 
evidently just, as the new act, in abolishing all 
specific duties, and reducing every thing to an 
ad valorem duty of twenty per centum, would 
reduce the duties on sugar and molasses eventu 
ally to the one-third or the one-fourth vf their 
then amount ; and, unless the drawback should 
be proportionately reduced, the exporter of re 
fined sugars and rum, instead of drawing back 
the exact amount he had paid into the Treasury, 
would in reality draw back three or four times 
as much as had been paid in. This would be un 
just in itself; and, besides being unjust, would 
involve a breach of the constitution, for, so much 
ot ^he drawback as was not founded upon the 
duty, would be a naked bounty paid for nothing 
out of the Treasury. I expected my motion to 
be adopted by a unanimous vote ; on the con 
trary, it was rejected by a vote of 24 to 18 j * 
and I had to leave it to Time, that slow, but sure 
witness, to develope the evils which my argu 
ments had been unable to show, and to enforce 
the remedies which the vote of the Senate had 
rejected. That witness has come. Time, with 
his unerring testimony, has arrived. The act 
of 1833 has run the greater part >"f its course, 
without having reached its ultimate depression 
of duties, or developed its greatest mischiefs; 
but it has gone far enough to show that it has 
done immense injury to the Treasury, and must 
continue to do it if a remedy is not applied. 
Always indifferent to my rhetoric, and careful 
of my facts always leaving oratory behind, and 
laboring to establish a battery of facts in front 
I have applied at the fountain head of infor- 

* The following was the vote: 

YEAS Messrs. Benton, Buckner, Calhoun, Dallas, Dicker- 
ion, Dudley, Forsyth, Johnston, Kane, King, Eives, Kobin- 
on, Seymour, Toinlinson, Webster, White, Wilkins, and 
Wright 18. 

NATS Messrs. Bell, Bibb, Black, Clay, Clayton, Ewing, 
Fact, Grundy, Henclricks, Holmes, Knight, Mangum, Miller, 
Moore, Naudain, Poindexter, Prentiss, Bobbins, Silsbee, 
Smith, Sprague, Tipton, Troup, Tyler --24. 



mation the Treasury Department for all the 
statistics connected with the subject ; and the 
successive reports which had been received from 
that department, on the salt duties and the fish 
ing bounties and allowances, and on the sugar 
and molasses duties, and the drawbacks on ex 
ported rum and refined sugar, and which had 
been printed by the order of the Senate, had 
supplied the information which constituted the 
body of facts which must carry conviction to 
the mind of every hearer. 

Mr. B. said he would take up the sugar duties 
first, and show what had been the operation of 
the act of 1833, in relation to the revenue from 
that article, and the drawbacks founded upon it. 
In document No. 27 5 3 laid upon our tables on 
Friday last, we find four tables in relation to 
this point, and a letter from the Register of the 
Treasury, Mr. T. L. Smith, describing their con 
tents. 

These tables are all valuable. The whole of 
the information which they contain is useful, 
and is applicable to the business of legislation, 
and goes to enlighten us on the subject under con 
sideration ; but it is not in my power, continued 
Mr. B., to quote them in detail. Results and 
prominent facts only can be selected j and, pro 
ceeding on this plan, I here show to the Senate, 
from table No. 1, that as early as the year 1837 
being only four years after the compromise act 
the drawback paid on the exportation of refined 
sugar actually exceeded the amount of revenue 
derived from imported sugar, by the sum of 
$861 71. As the duties continued to diminish, 
and the drawback remained the same, this ex 
cess was increased in 1838 to $12,690 ; and in 
1839 it was increased to $20,154 37. Thus far 
the results are mathematical ; they are copied 
from the Treasury books j they show the actual 
operation of the compromise act on this article, 
down to the end of the last year. These are 
facts to pause at, and think upon. They imply 
that the sugar refiners manufactured more sugar 
than was imported into the United States for 
each of these three years that they not only 
manufactured, but exported, in a refined state. 
more than was imported into the United States 
about 400,000 Ibs. more the last of these years 
that they paid duty on these quantities, not 
leaving a pound of imported sugar to have been 
used or duty paid on it by any other person 
and not leaving a pound of their own refined 



192 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



Bugar to be used in the United States. In other 
words, the whole amount of the revenue from 
brown and clayed sugars was paid over to 29 
sugar refiners from 1837 : and not only the 
whole amount, but the respective sums of 
$861 71, and $12,690, and $20,154 37, in that 
r and the two succeeding years, over and above 
that amount. This is what the table shows as 
far as the act has gone ; and as we know that 
the refiners only consumed a small part of the 
sugar imported, and only exported a part of 
what they refined, and consequently only paid 
duty on a small part, it stands to reason that a 
most enormous abuse has been committed the 
fault of the law allowing them to " draw back " 
out of the Treasury what they had never put 
into it. 

The table then goes on to show the prospec 
tive operation of the act for the remainder of 
the time which it has to run, and which will in 
clude the great reductions of duty which are to 
take place in 1841 and 1842 ; and here the re 
sults become still more striking. Assuming the 
importation of each succeeding year to be the 
same that it was in 1839, and the excess of the 
drawback over the duties will be, for 1840, 
$37,343 38 ; for 1841, the same ; for 1842 
$114,693 94 ; and for 1843, the sum of $140, 
477 45. That is to say, these refiners will 
receive the whole of the revenue from the sugar 
tax, and these amounts in addition, for these 
four years ; when they would not be entitled, 
under an honest law, to more than the one for 
tieth part of the revenue which, in fact, is more 
than they received while the law was honest. 
These will be the bounties payable out of the 
Treasury in the present, and in the three suc 
ceeding years, provided the importation of sugars 
shall be the same that it was in 1839 ; but will 
it be the same ? To this question, both reason 
and experience answer in the negative. They 
both reply that the importation will increase in 
proportion to the increased profit which the in 
creasing difference between the duty and the 
drawback will afford ; and this reply is proved 
by the two first columns in the table under con 
sideration. These columns show that, under the 
encouragement to importation already afforded 
by the compromise act, the import of sugar in 
creased in six years from 1,558,971 pounds, 
costing $72,336, to 11,308,561 pounds, costing 
$554,1 19. Here was an enormous increase un 



der a small inducement compared to that which 
is to follow ; so that we have reason to conclude 
that the importations of the present and ensuing 
years, unless checked by the passage of the bill 
which I propose to bring in, will not only in 
crease in the ratio of the past years, but far be 
yond it ; and will in reality be limited only by 
the capacity of the world to supply the demand : 
so great will be the inducement to import raw 
or clayed sugars, and export refined. The effect 
upon our Treasury must be great. Several 
hundred thousand dollars per annum must be 
taken from it for nothing ; the whole extracted 
from the Secretary of the Treasury in hard 
money j his reports having shown us that, while 
paper money, and even depreciated paper, is 
systematically pressed upon the government in 
payment of duties, nothing but gold and silver 
will be received back in payment of drawbacks. 
But it is not the Treasury only that would 
suffer : the consumers of sugar would come in 
for their share of the burden: the drawback 
will keep up the price ; and the home consumer 
must pay the drawback as well as the govern 
ment j otherwise the refined sugar will seek a 
foreign market. The consumers of brown sugar 
will suffer in the same manner ; for the manu 
facturers will monopolize it, and refine it, and 
have their five cents drawback, either at home 
or abroad. Add to all this, it will be well if 
enterprising dealers shall not impose domestic 
sugars upon the manufacturers, and thus convert 
the home crop into an article entitled to draw 
back. 

Such are the mischiefs of the act of 1833 in 
relation to this article ; they are great already, 
and still greater are yet to come. As early as 
1837, the whole amount of the sugar revenue, 
and $861,71 besides, was delivered over to some 
twenty odd manufacturers of refined sugars ! 
At this day, the whole amount of that revenue 
goes to these few individuals, and $37,343,38 
besides. This is the case this year. Henceforth 
they are to receive the whole amount of this 
revenue, with some hundreds of thousands of 
dollars besides, to be drawn from other branches 
of revenue, unless this bill is passed which I prc 
pose to bring in. This is the effect of the act, 
dignified with the name of compromise, and hal 
lowed by the imputed character of sacred and 
inviolable ! It turns over a tax levied from 
seventeen millions of people on an article of OB- 



ANNO 1840. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



193 



cntial comfort, and almost a necessary ; it turns 
over this whole tax to a few individuals ; and 
that not being enough to satisfy their demand, 
they receive the remainder from the National 
Treasury ! It violates the constitution to the 
whole extent of the excess of the drawback over 
the duty. It subjects the Treasury to an un 
foreseen amount of undue demands. It deprives 
the people of the whole benefit of the reduction 
of the sugar tax, provided for by the act itself ; 
and subjects them to the mercies of those who 
may choose to monopolize the article for refine 
ment and exportation. The whole number of 
persons into whose hands all this money and 
power is thrown, is, according to a statement 
derived from Gov. Wolf, the late collector of the 
customs at Philadelphia, no more than own the 
29 sugar refineries ; the whole of which, omit 
ting some small ones in the West, and three in 
New Orleans, are situate on the north side of 
Mason and Dixon's line. Members from the 
South and West complain of the unequal work 
ing of our revenue system of the large amounts 
expended in the northeast the trifle expended 
South and West. But, why complain ? Their 
own improvident and negligent legislation makes 
it so. This bill alone, in only one of its items 
the sugar item will send millions, before 1842, 
to the north side of that famous line : and this 
bill was the concoction, and that out of doors, 
of one member from the South and one more 
from the West. 

Mr. Benton would proceed to the next article 
to the effect upon which, of the compromise act, 
he would wish to call their attention ; and that 
article was imported molasses, and its manufac 
ture, in the shape of exported rum. On this 
article, and its manufacture, the operation of the 
act was of the same character, though not to the 
same degree, that it was on sugars ; the duties 
were reduced, while the drawback remained the 
same. This was constantly giving drawback 
where no duty had been paid ; and in 1842 the 
whole of the molasses tax will go to these rum 
distillers giving the legal implication that they 
had imported all the molasses that came into 
the United States, and paid duty on it and 
then exported it all in the shape of rum leav 
ing not a gallon to have been consumed by the 
rest of the community, nor even a gallon of their 
own rum to have been drank in the United 
States. All this is clear from the regular opera- 
VOL. II. 13 



tion of the compromise act, in reducing duties 
without making a corresponding reduction in 
the drawbacks founded upon them. But is 
there not to be cheating in addition to the regu 
lar operation of the act ? If not, we shall be 
more fortunate than we have been heretofore, 
and that under the circumstances of greatei 
temptation. It is well known that whiskey can 
be converted into New England rum, and ex 
ported as such, and receive the drawback of the 
molasses duty j and that this has been done just 
as often as the price of whiskey (and the mean 
est would answer the purpose) was less than 
the cost of molasses. The process was this. 
Purchase base whiskey at a low rate filtrate it 
through charcoal, to deprive it of smell and 
taste then pass it through a rum distillery, in 
company with a little real rum and the whis 
key would come out rum, very fit to be sold as 
such at home, or exported as such, with the 
benefit of drawback. All this has been done, 
and has been proved to be done ; and, therefore, 
may be done again, and certainly will be done, 
under the increased temptation which the com 
promise act now affords, and will continue to 
afford, if not amended as proposed by the bill I 
propose to bring in. It was proved before a 
committee of the House of Representatives in 
the session of 1827-8. Mr. Jeromus Johnson, 
then a member of Congress from the city of 
New York, now a custom-house officer in that 
city, testified directly to the fact. To the ques 
tion : li Are there not large quantities of whis 
key used with molasses in the distillation of 
what is called New England rum ? " He an 
swered : " There are : " and that when mixed at 
the rate of only four gallons to one, and the 
mixture run through a rum distillery the 
whiskey previously deprived of its taste and 
smell by filtration through charcoal the best 
practised rum drinker could not tell the differ 
ence even if appealed to by a custom-house 
officer. That whiskey is now used for that 
purpose, is clearly established by the table 
marked B. That table shows that the impor 
tation of foreign molasses for the year 1839 was 
392,368 gallons ; and the exportation of distil 
led rum for that quantity was 356,699 gallons ; 
that is to say, nearly as many gallons of rum 
went out as of molasses came in ; and, admitting 
that a gallon of good molasses will make a gal 
lon of rum, yet the average is below it. Infe- 



194 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



fior or common molasses falls short of producing 
gallon for gallon by from 5 to 7 per cent* Now 
make an allowance for this deficiency ; allow 
also for the quantity of foreign molasses con 
sumed in the United States in other ways j al 
low likewise for the quantity of rum made from 
molasses, and not exported, but consumed at 
home : allow for these three items, and the con 
viction becomes irresistible, that whiskey was 
used hi the distillation of rum in the year 1839, 
and exported with the benefit of drawback ! 
and that such will continue to be the case (if 
this blunder is not corrected), as the duty gets 
lower and the temptation to export whiskey, 
under the disguise of New England rum, becomes 
greater. After 1842, this must be a great busi 
ness, and the molasses drawback a good profit 
on mean whiskey. 

Putting these two items together the sugar 
and the molasses drawbacks and some millions 
must be plundered from the Treasury under 
the preposterous provisions of this compromise 
act. 



CHAPTER LIY. 

FISHING BOUNTIES AND ALLOWANCES, AND 
THEIR ABUSE: MB. BENTON'S SPEECH: EX 
TRACTS. 

THE bill which I am asking leave to introduce, 
proposes to reduce the fishing bounties and 
allowances in proportion to the reduction which 
the salt duty has undergone, and is to undergo j 
and at the threshold I am met by the question, 
whether these allowances are founded upon the 
salt duty, and should rise and fall with it, or 
are independent of that duty, and can be kept 
up without it ? I hold the affirmative of this 
question. I hold that the allowances rest upon 
the duty, and upon nothing else, and that there 
is neither statute law nor constitution to support 
them on any other foundation. This is what I 
hold : but I should not have noticed the ques 
tion at this time except for the issue joined 
upon it between the senator from Massachusetts 
who sits farthest on the other side (Mr. Davis), 
and myself. He and I have made up an issue 
on this point ; and without going into the argu 
ment at this time, I will cite him to the original 
petition from the Massachusetts legislature, 



asking for a drawback of the duties, or, as they 
styled it, " a remission of duties on all the duti 
able articles used in the fisheries; and ako 
premiums and bounties : " and having shown 
this petition, I will point to half a dozen acts of 
Congress which prove my position hoping that 
they may prove sufficient, but promising f o 
come down upon him with an avalanche of au 
thorities if they are not. 

The dutiable articles used in the fisheries, and 
of which a remission duty was asked in the pe 
tition, were : salt, rum, tea, sugar, molasses, 
coarse woollens, lines and hooks, sail-cloth, 
cordage, iron, tonnage. This petition, present 
ed to Congress in the year 1790, was referred 
to the Secretary of State (Mr. Jefferson), for a 
report upon it j and his report was, that a draw 
back of duties ought to be allowed, and that the 
fisheries are not to draw support from the Treas 
ury ; the words, " drawback of duty," only ap 
plying to articles exported, was confined to the 
salt upon that part of the fish which were ship 
ped to foreign countries : and to this effect was 
the legislation of Congress. I briefly review the 
first half dozen of these acts. 

1. The act of 1789 the same which imposed 
a duty of six cents a bushel on salt, and which 
granted a bounty of five cents a barrel on pickled 
fish exported, and also on beef and pork export 
ed, and five cents a quintal on dried fish ex 
ported declared these bounties to be " in lieu 
of a drawback of the duties imposed on the im 
portation of the salt employed and expended 
thereon." This act is decisive of the whole ques 
tion. In the first place it declares the bounty 
to be in lieu of a drawback of the salt duty. In 
the second place, it conforms to the principle of 
all drawbacks, and only grants the bounty on 
the part of the fish which is exported. In the 
third place, it gives the same bounty, and in the 
same words, to the exporters of salted beef and 
pork which is given to the exporters of fish : 
and certainly mariners were not expected to be 
created among the raisers of swine and cattle 
which negatives the idea of this being an en 
couragement to the formation of seamen. 

2. In 1790 the duty on salt was doubled : it 
was raised from six to twelve cents a bushel : 
by the same act the fishing bounties and allow 
ances were also doubled : they were raised from 
five to ten cents the barrel and the quintal. By 
this act the bounties and allowances both to 



ANNO 1840. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



195 



fish and provisions, were described to be "in 
lieu of drawback of the duty on salt used in cu 
ring fish and provisions exported." 

3. The act of 1792 repeals " the bounty in 
lieu of drawback on dried fish ; " and, " in lieu 
of that, and as commutation thereof, and as an 
equivalent therefor," shifts the bounty from the 
'quintal" of dried fish to the "tonnage" of 
the fishing vessel ; and changes .ts name from 
' bounty " to " allowance." This is the key act 
to the present system of tonnage allowance to 
the fishing vessel; and was passed upon the 
petition of the fishermen, and to enable the 
* crew " of the vessel to draw the bounty in 
stead of letting it fall into the hands of the ex 
porting merchant. It was done upon the fisher 
men's petition, and for the benefit of the crew, 
interested in the adventure, and who had paid 
the duty on the salt which they used. And to 
exclude all idea of considering this change as a 
change of policy, and to cut off all inference that 
the allowance was now to become a bounty 
from the Treasury as an encouragement for a 
seaman's nursery, the act went on to make this 
precise and explicit declaration: " That the 
allowance so granted to the jishing vessel was 
a commutation of, and an equivalent for. the 
bounty in lieu of drawback of the duties im 
posed on the importation of the salt used in 
curing the Jish exported" This is plain lan 
guage the plain language used by legislators 
of that day and defies misconception, misun 
derstanding, or cavil. 

4. In 1797 the duty on salt was raised from 
twelve cents to twenty cents a bushel : by the 
same act a corresponding increase was made in 
the bounties both to exported salted provisions 
and pickled fish, and in the allowance to the 
fishing vessels. The salt duty was raised one- 
third and a fraction: and these bounties and 
allowances were raised one-third. Thirty-three 
and one-third per cent, was added all round j 
and the act, to make all sure, was express in 
again declaring the bounties and allowances to 
be a commutation in lieu of the drawback of the 
Bait duty. 

5. The act of April 12th, 1800, continues the 
salt duty, and with it all the bounties to salted 
provisions and pickled fish exported, and all the 
allowances to fishing vessels, for ten years ; and 
then adds this proviso : " That these allowances 
shall not be understood to be continued for a 



longer time than the correspondent duties on 
salt, respectively, for which the said allowances 
were granted, shall be payable." Such are the 
terms of the act of the year 1800. It is a clincher. 
It nails up, and crushes every thing. It shows 
that Congress was determined that the salt 
duty, and the bounties and allowances, should 
be one and indivisible : that they should come, 
and go together should rise and fall together 
should live and die together. 

6. In 1807, Mr. Jefferson being President, 
the salt tax was abolished upon his recom- 
nendation: and with it all the bounties and 

allowances to fishing vessels, to pickled fish, 
and to salted beef and pork were all swept 
away. The same act abolished the whole. The 
first section repealed the salt duty : the second 
repealed the bounties and allowances : and the 
repeal of both was to take effect on the same 
day namely, on the first day of January, 1808 : 
a day which deserves to be nationally com 
memorated, as the day of the death of an odi 
ous, criminal and impious tax. The beneficent 
and meritorious act was in these words : "That 
from and after the first day of January next, 
so much of any act as allows a bounty on ex 
ported salt provisions and pickled fish, in lieu 
of drawback of the duties on the salt employed 
in curing the same, and so much of any act as 
makes allowances to the owners and crews of 
fishing vessels, in lieu of drawback of tlie 
duties paid on the salt used in the same, shall 
be, and the same hereby is repealed." This 
was the end of the first salt tax in the United 
States, and of all the bounties and allowances 
built upon it. It fell, with all its accessories, un 
der the republican administration of Mr. Jeffer 
son and with the unanimous vote of every re 
publican and also with the vote of many fedo- 
ralists: so much more favorable were the old 
federalists than the whigs of this day, to the in 
terests of the people. In fact there were only 
five votes against the repeal, and not one of these 
upon the ground that the bounties and allow 
ances were independent of the salt duty. 

7. After this, and for six years, there was no 
salt tax no fishing bounties or allowances in 
the United States. The tax, and its progeny 
lay buried in one common grave, and had no 
resurrection until the year 1813. The war with 
Great Britain revived them the tax and its off 
spring together ; but only as a temporary mea* 



196 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW 



ure as a war tax to cease within one year after 
the termination of the war. Before that year was 
Dut, the tax, and its appendages were contin 
ued not for any determinate period, but until 
repealed by Congress. They have not been re 
pealed yet ! and that was forty years ago ! No 
act could then have been obtained to continue 
this duty for the short space of three years. 
The continuance could only be obtained on the 
argument that Congress could then repeal it at 
any time ; a fallacious reliance, but always 
seductive to men of easy and temporizing tem 
peraments. 

The pretension that these fishing bounties 
and allowances were granted as encouragement 
to mariners, is rejected by every word of the 
acts which grant them, and by the striking fact, 
that no part of them goes to the whale fisheries. 
Not a cent of them had ever gone to a whale 
ship : they had only gone to the cod and mack 
erel fisheries. The noble whaler of four or fire 
hundred tons, with her ample crew, which sailed 
twenty thousand miles, doubling a most tem 
pestuous cape before she arrived at the field of 
her labors which remained out three years, 
waging actual war with the monsters of the 
deep a war in which a brave heart, a steady 
eye, and an iron nerve were as much wanted as 
in any battle with man ; this noble whaler got 
nothing. It all went to the hook-and-line men 
to the cod and mackerel fisheries, which were 
carried jn in diminutive vessels, as small as five 
tons, and in the rivers, and along the shores, 
and oil the shallow banks of Newfoundland. 
Meritorious as these hook-and-line fishermen 
might be, they cannot compare with the whalers : 
and these whalers receive no bounties and al 
lowances because they pay no duty on imported 
salt, re-exported by them. 

I now come to the clause in my bill which 
has called forth these preliminary remarks ; the 
third clause, which proposes the reduction of 
fishing bounties and allowances in proportion to 
the reduction which the salt tax has undergone, 
and shall undergo. And here, it is not the com 
promise act alone that is to be blamed : a pre 
vious act shares that censure with it. In 1830 
the salt duty was reduced one-half, to take effect 
in 1830 and 1831; the fishing bounties and 
allowances should have been reduced one-half at 
the same time. I made the motion hi the Sen 
ate to that effect; but it failed of success. 



When the compromise act was passed in 1833, 
and provided for a further reduction of the salt 
duty a reduction which has now reduced it 
two-thirds, and in 1841 and '42 will reduce it 
still lower when this act was passed, a reduc 
tion of the fishing bounties and allowances 
should have taken place. The two senator 3 
who concocted that act in their chambers, and 
brought it here to be registered as the royal 
edicts were registered in the times of the old 
French monarchy; when these two senators 
concocted this act, they should have inserted a 
provision in it for the correspondent reduction 
of the fishing bounties and allowances with the 
salt tax : they should have placed these allow 
ances, and the refined sugar, and the rum draw 
backs, all on the same footing, and reduced them 
all in proportion to the reduction of the duties 
on the articles on which they were founded. 
They did cot do this. They omitted the whole ; 
with what mischief you have already seen in the 
case of rum and refined sugar, and shall pre 
sently see in the case of the fishing bounties 
and allowances. I attempted to supply a part 
of their omission in making the motion in rela 
tion to drawbacks, which was read to you at the 
commencement of these remaks. Failing in 
that motion, I made no further attempt, but 
waited for TIME, the great arbiter of all ques 
tions, to show the mischief, and to enforce the 
remedy. That arbiter is now here, with his 
proofs in his hand, in the shape of certain re 
ports from the Treasury Department in relation 
to the salt duty and the fishing bounties and 
allowances, which have been printed by the 
order of the Senate, and constitute part of the 
salt document, No. 196. From that document I 
now proceed to collect the evidences of one 
branch of the mischief the pecuniary branch 
of it which the omission to make the proper 
reductions in these allowances has inflicted 
upon the country. 

The salt duty was reduced one-fourth in the 
year 1831 ; the fishing bounties and allowances 
that year were $313,894; they should have 
been reduced one-fourth also, which would have 
made them about $160,000. In 1832 the duty 
was reduced one-half; the fishing bounties and 
allowances were paid in full, and amounted to 
$234,137 ; they should have been reduced one- 
half; and then $117,018 would have discharged 
them. The compromise act was made in 1833. 



ANNO 1840. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



197 



and, under the operation of that act, the salt 
duty has undergone biennial reductions, until it 
is now reduced to about one-third of its original 
amount : if it had provided for the correspond 
ent reduction of the fishing bounties and allow 
ances, there would have been saved from that 
year to the year 1839 the last to which the 
returns have been made up an annual average 
sum of about $150,000, or a gross sum of about 
$900,000. The prospective loss can only be 
estimated ; but it is to increase rapidly, owing 
to the large reductions in the salt duty in the 
rears 1841 and 1842. 

The present year, 1840, lacks but a little of 
exhausting the whole amount of the salt reve 
nue in paying the fishing bounties and allow 
ances ; the next year will take more than the 
whole ; and the year after will require about 
double the amount of the salt revenue of that 
year to be taken from other branches of the 
revenue to satisfy the demands of the fishing 
ressels : thus producing the same result as in 
the case of the sugar duties the whole amount 
Df the salt duty, and as much more out of other 
duties, being paid to the cod and mackerel fish 
ermen, as the whole amount of the sugar tax, 
and considerably more, is paid to the sugar- 
refiners. The results for the present year, and 
the ensuing ones, are of course computed : they 
are computations founded upon the basis of the 
last ascertained year's operations. The last 
year to which all the heads of this branch of 
business is made up, is the year 1838 ; and for 
that year they stand thus: Salt imported, in 
round numbers, seven millions of bushels ; net 
revenue from it, about $430,000 5 fishing boun 
ties and allowances, $320,000. Assuming the 
importation of the present year to be the same, 
and the bounties and allowances to be the same, 
the loss to the Treasury will be $206,000 ; for 
the salt duty this year will undergo a fur 
ther reduction. In 1842, when this duty has 
reached its lowest point, the whole amount of 
revenue derived from it is computed at about 
$170,000, while the fishing bounties and al- 
.owances continuing the same, namely, about 
$320,000, the salt revenue in the gross will be 
little more than half enough to pay it; and, 
after -deducting the weighers' and measurers' 
fees, which come out of the Treasury, and 
amount to $52,500 on an importation of seven 
millions ; after deducting this item, there will 



be a deficiency of about $200,000 in the salt 
revenue, in meeting the drawbacks, in the shape 
of bounties and allowances founded upon it. 
Thus two-thirds of the whole amount of the 
salt revenue is at this time paid to the fishing 
vessels. Next year it will all go to them ; and 
after 1842, we shall have to raise money from 
other sources to the amount of $200,000 per 
annum, or raise the salt duty itself to produce 
that amount, in order to satisfy these draw 
backs, which were permitted to take the form 
of bounties and allowances to fishing vessels. 
Such is the operation of the compromise act \ 
that act which is styled sacred and inviolable ! 

Of the other mischiefs resulting from this 
compromise act, which reduced the duties on 
salt, and the one which preceded it for the same 
purpose, without reducing the correspondent 
bounties and allowances to the fishing interest 
of these rema'^ing mischiefs, whereof there 
are many, I mean to mention but one; and 
merely to mention that, and not to argue it. 
It is the constitutional objection to the pay 
ment of any thing beyond the duty received 
the payment of any thing which exceeds the 
drawback of the duty. Up to that point, I ad 
mit the constitutionality of drawbacks, whether 
passing under that name, or changed to the 
name of a bounty, or an allowance in lieu of a 
drawback. I admit the constitutional right of 
Congress to permit a drawback of the amount 
paid in : I deny the constitutional right to per 
mit a drawback of any amount beyond what 
was paid in. This is my position, which I 
pledge myself to maintain, if any one disputes 
it ; and applying this principle to the fishing 
bounties and allowances, and also to the draw 
backs in the case of refined sugars and rum : 
and I boldly affirm that the constitution of the 
United States has been in a state of flagrant 
violation, under the compromise act, from the 
day of its passage to the present hour, and will 
continue so until the bill is passed which I am 
about to ask leave to bring in. 

Sir, I quit this part of my subject with pre 
senting, in a single picture, the condensed view 
of what I have been detailing. It is, that the 
whole annual revenue derived from sugar, salt, 
and molasses, is delivered over gratuitously to a 
few thousand persons in a particular section of 
the Union, and is not even sufficient to satisfy 
their demands ! In other words, that a tax 



198 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



upon a nation of seventeen millions of people, 
upon three articles of universal consumption, 
articles of necessity, and of comfort, is laid for 
the benefit of a few dozen rum distillers and 
sugar refiners, and a few thousand fishermen ; 
and not being sufficient for them, the deficit, 
amounting to many hundred thousand dollars 
per annum, is taken from other branches of the 
revenue, and presented to them ! and all this 
the effect of an act which was made out of doors, 
which was not permitted to be amended on its 
passage, and which is now held to be sacred 
and inviolable ! and which will eventually sink 
under its own iniquities, though sustained now 
by a cry which was invented by knavery, and 
is repeated by ignorance, folly, and faction a 
cry that that compromise saved the Union. 
This is the picture I present which I prove to 
be true and the like of which is not to be seen 
in the legislation, or even in the despotic decrees, 
of arbitrary monarchs, in any other country 
upon the face of the earth. 

About five millions of dollars have been 
taken from the Treasury under these bounties 
and allowances the greater part of it most un 
duly and abusefully.* The fishermen are only 
entitled to an amount equal to the duty paid on 
the imported salt, which is used upon that part 
of the fish which is exported ; and the law re 
quires not only the exportation to be proved, 
but the landing and remaining of the cargo in 
a foreign country. They draw back this year 
$355,000. Do they pay that amount of duty on 
the salt put on the modicum of fish which they 
export ? Why, it is about the entire amount of 
the whole salt tax paid by the whole United 
States ! and to justify their right to it, they 
must consume on the exported part of their 
fish the whole quantity of foreign salt now im 
ported into the United States leaving not a 
handful to be used by the rest of the popula 
tion, or by themselves on that part of their fish 
which is consumed at home and which is so 
much greater than the exported part. This 
shows the enormity of the abuse, and that the 
whole amount of the salt tax now goes to a few 
thousand fishermen; and if this compromise 
act is not corrected, that whole amount, after 
1842, will not be sufficient to pay this small 

* About four and a quarter millions taken since ; and still 
fckfef. 



class not equal in number to the fanners in a 
common Kentucky county ; and other money 
must be taken out of the Treasury to make 
good the deficiency. I have often attempted to 
get rid of the whole evil, and render a great 
service to the country, by repealing in toto the 
tax and all the bounties and allowances erected 
upon it. At present I only propose, and that 
without the least prospect of success, to correct 
a part of the abuse, by reducing the payments 
to the fishermen in proportion to the reduction 
of the duty on salt : but the true remedy is the 
one applied under Mr. Jefferson's administra 
tion total repeal of both. 



CHAPTER LV. 

EXPENDITURES OF THE GOVERNMENT. 

AT no point does the working of the govern 
ment more seriously claim the attention of 
statesmen than at that of its expenses. It is 
the tendency of all governments to increase 
their expenses, and it should be the care of all 
statesmen to restrain them within the limits of 
a judicious economy. This obligation was feK 
as a duty in the early periods of our history, 
and the doctrine of economy became a principle 
in the political faith of the party, which, whether 
called Republican as formerly, or Democratic as 
now, is still the same, and was incorporated in 
its creed. Mr. Jefferson largely rested the 
character of his administration upon it; and 
deservedly : for even in the last year of his 
administration, and after the enlargement of 
our territory by the acquisition of Louisiana, 
the expenses of the government were but about 
three millions and a half of dollars. At the end 
of Mr. Monroe's administration, sixteen years 
later, they had risen to about seven millions j 
and in the last year of Mr. Van Buren's (six 
teen years more), they had risen to about thir 
teen millions. At the same time, at each of 
these epochs, and in fact, in every year of every 
administration, there were payments from the 
Treasury for extraordinary or temporary ob 
jects, often far exceeding in amount the regular 
governmental expenses. Thus, in the last year 
of Mr. Jefferson, the whole outlay from the 



ANNO 1840. MARTIN VAN BQREN, PRESIDENT. 



199 



Treasury, was about twelve millions and a half ; 
of which eight millions went to the payment of 
principal and interest on the public debt, and 
about one million to other extra objects. And 
in the last year of Mr. Monroe, the whole pay 
ments were about thirty-two millions of dollars, 
of which sixteen millions and a half went to the 
liquidation of the public debt ; and above eight 
millions more to other extraordinary and tem 
porary objects. Towards the close of Mr. Van 
Buren's administration, this aggregate of outlay 
for all objects had risen to about thirty-seven 
millions, which the opposition called thirty- 
nine ; and presenting this gross sum as the 
actual expenses of the government, made a great 
outcry against the extravagance of the adminis 
tration ; and the people, not understanding the 
subject, were seriously impressed with the force 
and truth of that accusation, while the real ex 
penses were but about the one-third of that sum. 
To present this result in a plain and authentic 
form, the author of this View obtained a call 
upon the Secretary for the different payments, 
ordinary and extraordinary, from the Treasury 
for a series of years, in which the payments 
would be placed under three heads the ordi 
nary, the extraordinary, and the public debt 
specifying the items of each ; and extending 
from Monroe's time (admitted to be economi 
cal), to Mr. Van Buren's charged with extrava 
gance. This return was made by the Secretary, 
divided into three columns, with specifications, 
as required ; and though obtained for a tempo 
rary and transient purpose, it possesses a per 
manent interest as giving a complete view of the 
financial working of the government, and fixing 
points of comparison in the progress of expendi 
turevery proper to be looked back upon by 
those who would hold the government to some 
degree of economy in the use of the public 
money. There has been no such examination 
since the year 1840: there would seem to be 
room for it now (1855), when the aggregate of 
appropriations exceed seventy millions of dol 
lars. A deduction for extraordinaries would 
largely reduce that aggregate, but still leave 
enough behind to astound the lovers of economy. 
Throe branches of expenditure alone, each with 
in itself, exceeds by upwards of four to one, the 
whole ordinary expenses of -the government in 
the time of Mr. Jefferson ; and upwards of 
double of such expense in the time of Mr. Mon 



roe ; and some millions more than the same 
aggregate in the last year of Mr. Van Buren, 
These three branches are, 1. The civil, diplo 
matic, and miscellaneous, $17,265,929 and 5C 
cents. 2. The naval service (without the pen 
sions and "reserved" list), $15,012.091 and 53 
cents. 3. The army, fortifications, military 
academy (without the pensions), $12,571,496 
and 64 cents. These three branches of expendi 
ture alone would amount to about forty-five 
millions of dollars to which twenty-six mil 
lions more are to be added. The dormant spirit 
of economy hoped to be only dormant, not 
dead should wake up at this exhibition of the 
public expenditure : and it is with that view 
with the view of engaging the attention of some 
economical members of Congress, that the ex 
hibit is now made that this chapter is writ 
ten and some regard invoked for the subject 
of which it treats. The evils of extravagance 
in the government are great. Besides the bur 
den upon the people, it leads to corruption in 
the government, and to a janissary horde of 
office holders to live upon the people while pol 
luting their elections and legislation, and poison 
ing the fountains of public information in mould 
ing public opinion to their own purposes. More 
than that. It is the true source of the just dis 
content of the Southern States, and must aggra 
vate more and more the deep-seated complaint 
against the unnecessary levy of revenue upon 
the industry of one half of the Union to bo 
chiefly expended in the other. That complaint 
was great enough to endanger the Union twenty- 
five years ago, when the levy and expenditure 
was thirty odd millions : it is now seventy odd ! 
At the same time it is the opinion of this writer, 
that a practical man, acquainted with the objects 
for which the federal government was created, 
and familiar with its financial working from the 
time its fathers put it into operation, could take 
his pen and cross out nearly the one half of 
these seventy odd millions, and leave the govern 
ment in full vigor for all its proper objects, and 
more pure, by reducing the number of those 
who live upon the substance of the people. To 
complete the effect of this chapter, some extracts 
are given in the ensuing one, from the speech 
made in 1840, upon the expenditures of the 
government, as presenting practical views upon 
a subject of permanent interest, and more wor 
thy of examination now than then. 



200 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



CHAPTEK LVI. 

EXPENSES OF THE GOVERNMENT, COMPAEATIVE 
AND PROGRESSIVE, AND SEPARATED FROM EX- 
TRAORDINARIES. 

MR. BENTON moved to print an extra number 
of these tabular statements received from the 
Secretary of the Treasury, and proposed to give 
nis reasons for the motion, and for that purpose, 
asked that the papers should be sent to him 
^ which was done) ; and Mr. B. went on to say 
that his object was to spread before the country, 
in an authentic form, the full view of all the 
government expenses for a series of years past, 
going back as far as Mr. Monroe's administra 
tion ; and thereby enabling every citizen, in 
every part of the country, to see the actual, the 
comparative, and the classified expenditures of 
the government for the whole period. This 
proceeding had become necessary, Mr. B. said, 
from the systematic efforts made for some years 
past, to impress the country with the belief that 
the expenditures had increased threefold in the 
last twelve years that they had risen from 
thirteen to thirty-nine millions of dollars ; and 
that this enormous increase was the effect of 
the extravagance, of the corruption, and of the 
incompetency of the administrations which had 
succeeded those of Mr. Adams and Mr. Monroe. 
These two latter administrations were held up 
as the models of economy ; those of Mr. Van 
Buren and General Jackson were stigmatized as 
monsters of extravagance ; and tables of figures 
were so arranged as to give color to the charac 
ters attributed to each. These systematic efforts 
this reiterated assertion, made on this floor, 
of thirteen millions increased to thirty-nine 
and the effect which such statements must have 
upon the minds of those who cannot see the 
purposes for which the money was expended, 
appeared to him (Mr. B.), to require some more 
formal and authentic refutation than any one 
individual could give something more impos 
ing than the speech of a solitary member could 
afford. Familiar with the action of the govern 
ment for twenty years past coming into the 
Senate in the time of Mr. Monroe remaining 
; n it ever since a friend to economy in public 
and in private life and closely scrutinizing the 



expenditures of the government during the 
whole time he (Mr. B.) felt himself to be very 
able at any time to have risen in his place, and 
to have exposed the delusion of this thirteen 
and thirty-nine million bugbear j and. if he did 
not do so, it was because, in the first place, ho 
was disinclined to bandy contradictions on the 
floor of the Senate ; and, in the second place, 
because he relied upon the intelligence of the 
country to set all right whenever they obtained 
a view of the facts. This view he had made 
himself the instrument of procuring, and the 
Secretary of the Treasury had :jow presented it. 
It was ready for the contemplation of the 
American people ; and he could wish every citi 
zen to have the picture in his c wn hands, that 
he might contemplate it at his own fireside, and 
at his full leisure. He could wish every citizen 
to possess a copy of this report, now received 
from the Secretary of the Treasury, under the 
call of the Senate, and printed by its order ; he 
could wish every citizen to possess one of these 
authentic copies, bearing the imprimatur of the 
American Senate; but that was impossible; 
and, limiting his action to what was possible, 
he would propose to print such number of extra 
copies as would enable some to reach every 
quarter of the Union. 

Mr. B. then opened the tables, and explained 
their character and contents. The first one 
(marked A) consisted of three columns, and ex 
hibited the aggregate, and the classified expen 
ditures of the government from the year 1824 
to 1839, inclusive ; the second one (marked B) 
contained the detailed statement of the pay 
ments annually made on account of all tempo 
rary or extraordinary objects, including the 
public debt, for the same period. The second 
table was explanatory of the third column of 
the first one ; and the two, taken together, 
would enable every citizen to see the actual ex 
penditures, and the comparative expenditures } 
of the government for the whole period which 
he had mentioned. 

Mr. B. then examined the actual and the 
comparative expenses of two of the years, taken 
from the two contrasted periods referred to, 
and invoked the attention of the Senate to the 
results which the comparison would exhibit. 
He took the first and the last of the years men 
tioned in the tables the years 1824 and 1839 
and began with the first item in the first 



ANNO 1840. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



201 



column. This showed the aggregate expendi 
tures for every object for the year 1824, to have 
been $31,898,538 47 very near thirty-two mil 
lions of dollars, said Mr. B., and if stated alone, 
and without explanation, very capable of aston 
ishing the public, of imposing upon the igno 
rant, and of raising a cry against the dreadful 
extravagance, the corruption, and the wicked 
ness of Mr. Monroe's administration. Taken 
by itself (and indisputably true it is in itself), 
and this aggregate of near thirty-two millions 
is very sufficient to effect all this surprise and 
indignation in the public mind ; but, passing on 
to the second column to see what were the ex 
penditures, independent of the public debt, and 
this large aggregate will be found to be reduced 
more than one half j it sinks to $15,330,144 71. 
This is a heavy deduction; but it is not all. 
Passing on to the third column, and it is seen 
that the actual expenses of the government for 
permanent and ordinary objects, independent 
of the temporary and extraordinary ones, for 
this same year, were only $7,107,892 05 ; be 
ing less than the one-fourth part of the aggre 
gate of near thirty-two millions. This looks 
quite reasonable, and goes far towards relieving 
Mr. Monroe's administration from the imputa 
tion to which a view of the aggregate expendi 
ture for the year would have subjected it. 
But, to make it entirely satisfactory, and to 
enable every citizen to understand the impor 
tant point of the government expenditures a 
point on which the citizens of a free and repre 
sentative government should be always well 
informed to attain this full satisfaction, let us 
pass on to the second table (marked B), and fix 
our eyes on its first column, under the year 
1824. We shall there find every temporary 
and extraordinary object, and the amount paid 
on account of it, the deduction of which reduced 
an aggregate of near thirty-two millions to a 
fraction over seven millions. We shall there 
find the explanation of the difference between 
the first and third columns. The first item is 
the sum of $1G ; 5G8,393 76, paid on account of 
the principal and interest of the public debt. 
The second is the sum of $4,891,386 56, paid 
to merchants for indemnities under the treaty 
with Spain of 1819, by which we acquired 
Florida. And so on through nine minor items, 
amounting in the \vhola exclusive of the public 
debt, to about eight millions and a quarter. 



This total added to the sum paid on account oi 
the public debt, makes close upon twenty-five 
millions of dollars j and this, deducted from the 
aggregate of near thirty-two millions, leaves a 
fraction over seven millions for the real ex 
penses of the government the ordinary and 
permanent expenses during the last year of 
Mr. Monroe's administration. 

This is certainly a satisfactory result. It ex 
empts the administration of that period from 
the imputation of extravagance, which the un 
explained exhibition of the aggregate expendi 
tures might have drawn upon it in the minds 
of unimcrmed persons. It clears that adminis 
tration from all blame. It must be satisfactory 
to every candid mind. And now let us apply 
the test of the same examination to some year 
of the present administration, now so inconti 
nently charged with ruinous extravagance. Lei 
us see how the same rule will work when ap 
plied to the present period ; and, for that pur 
pose, let us take the last year in the table, that 
of 1839. Let others take any year that they 
please, or as many as they please : I take one, 
because I only propose to give an example ; 
and I take the last one in the table, because it 
is the last. Let us proceed with this examina 
tion, and see what the results, actual and com 
parative, will be. 

Commencing with the aggregate payments 
from the Treasury for all objects, Mr. B. said 
it would be seen at the foot of the first 
column in the first table, that they amounted 
to $37,129,396 80 ; passing to the second col 
umn, and it would be seen that this sum was 
reduced to $25,982,797 75 ; and passing to the 
third, and it would be seen that this latter sum 
was itself reduced to $13,525,800 18 ; and, re 
ferring to the second table, under the year 1839, 
and it would be seen how this aggregate of 
thirty-seven millions was reduced to thirteen 
and a half. It was a great reduction ; a reduc 
tion of nearly two-thirds from the aggregate 
amount paid out ; and left for the proper ex 
penses of the government its ordinary and 
permanent expenses an inconceivably small 
sum for a great nation of seventeen millions 
of souls, covering an immense extent of territo 
ry, and acting a part among the great powers 
of the world. To trace this reduction to show 
the reasons of the difference between the first 
and the third columns, Mr. B. would follow the 



202 



THIRTY YEARS' VIEW. 



same process which he had pursued in explain 
ing the expenditures of the year 1824, and ask 
for nothing in one case which had not been 
granted in the other. 

1. The first item to be deducted from the 
thirty-seven million aggregate, was the sum of 
$11,146.599 05, paid on account of the public 
debt. He repeated, on account of the public 
debt ; for it was paid in redemption of Treasury 
notes ; and these Treasury notes were so much 
debt incurred to supply the place of the revenue 
deposited with the States, in 1836. or shut up 
in banks during the suspension of 1837, or due 
from merchants, to whom indulgence had been 
granted. To supply the place of these unattain 
able funds, the government went in debt by 
issuing Treasury notes ; but faithful to the sen 
timent which abhorred a national debt, it paid 
off the debt almost as fast as it contracted it. 
Above eleven millions of this debt was paid in 
1839, amounting to almost the one-third part 
of the aggregate expenditure of that year ; and 
thus, nearly the one-third part of the sum which 
is charged upon the administration as extrava 
gance and corruption, was a mere payment of 
debt ! a mere payment of Treasury notes 
which we had issued to supply the place of our 
misplaced and captured revenue our three in 
stalments of ten millions cash presented to the 
States under the false and fraudulent name of a 
deposit, and our revenue of 1837 captured by 
the banks when they shut their doors upon 
their creditors. The glorious administration 
of President Jackson left the country free from 
public debt : its worthy successor will do the 
same. 

Removal of Indians from the Southern and 
Western States, and extinction of their titles, 
and numerous smaller items, all specified in the 
third column of the table, amount to about 
twelve millions and a half more ; and these 
added to the payments on the public debt, the 
remainder is the expense of the government, 
and is but about the one-third of the aggregate 
expenditure to be precise, about thirteen mil 
lions and a half. 

With this view of the tabular statements Mr. 
D, closed the examination of the items of ex 
penditure, and stated the results to be a reduc 
tion of the thirty -seven million aggregate in 
1839, like that of the thirty-two million aggre 
gate in 1824, to about one-third of its amount. 



The very first item, that of the payment of pub 
ic debt in the redemption of Treasury notes, 
reduced it eleven millions of dollars : it sunk it 
rom thirty-seven millions to twenty-six. The 
other eighteen items amounted to $12,656,977, 
and reduced the twenty-six millions to thirteen 
and a half. Here then is a result which is at- 
:ained by the same process which applies to the 
year 1824, and to every other year, and which 
s right in itself ; and which must put to flight 
and to shame all the attempts to excite the 
country with this bugbear story of extrava 
gance. In the first place the aggregate expen 
ditures have not increased threefold in fifteen 
years; they have not risen from thirteen to 
thirty-nine millions, as incontinently asserted 
by the opposition ; but from thirty-two millions 
to thirty-seven or thirty-nine. And how have 
they risen ? By paying last year eleven mil 
lions for Treasury notes, and more than twelve 
millions for Indian lands, and wars, removals 
of Indians, and increase of the army and navy, 
and other items as enumerated. The result is 
a residuum of thirteen and a half millions for 
the real expenses of the government ; a sum 
one and a half millions short of what gentlemen 
proclaim would be an economical expenditure. 
They all say that fifteen millions would be an 
economical expenditure ; very well ! here is 
thirteen and a half ! which is a million and a 
half short of that mark. 



CHAPTER LVII. 

DEATH OF MR. JUSTICE BAKBOUK OF THE SU 
PREME COURT, AND APPOINTMENT OF PETER 
V. DANIEL, ESQ., IN HIS PLACE. 

MR. PHILLIP P. BARBOUR was a representative 
in Congress from the State of Virginia when I 
was first elected to the Senate in 1820. I had 
the advantage (for advantage I truly deemed 
it for a young member) to be in habitual so 
ciety with such a man one of the same mess 
with him the first session of my service. Nor 
was it accidental, but sought for on my part. 
It was a talented mess among others the bril 
liant orator, William Pinkney of Maryland ; 
and the eloquent James Barbour, of the Senate, 
brother to the representative : their cousin the 



ANNO 1840. MARTIN VAN BUREN, PRESIDENT. 



203 



representative John S. Barbour, equal to either 
in the endowments of the mind : Floyd of Vir 
ginia : Trimble and Clay of Kentucky. I knew 
the advantage of such association and cher 
ished it. From that time I was intimate with 
Mr. Phillip P. Barbour during the twenty-one 
winters which his duties, either as representa 
tive in Congress, or justice of the Supreme 
Court, required him to be at Washington. He 
was a man worthy of the best days of the re 
public modest, virtuous, pure : artless as a 
child : full of domestic affections : patriotic : 
filially devoted to Virginia as his mother State, 
and a friend to the Union from conviction and 
sentiment. He had a clear mind a close, log 
ical and effective method of speaking copious 
without diffusion ; and, always speaking to the 
subject, both with knowledge and sincerity, he 
was always listened to with favor. He was 
some time Speaker of the House, and was ap 
pointed to the bench of the Supreme Court by 
President Van Buren in 1837, in place of Mr. 
Justice Duval, resigned. He had the death 
which knows no pain, and which, to the body, 
is sleep without waking. He was in attendance 
upon the Supreme Court, in good health and 
spirits, and had done his part the night before 
in one of the conferences which the labors of 
the Supreme Bench impose almost nightly on 
the learned judges. In the morning he was 
supposed by his servant to be sleeping late, and, 
finally going to his bedside, found him dead 
the face all serene and composed, not a feature 
or muscle disturbed, the body and limbs in 
their easy natural posture. It was evident 
that the machinery of life had stopped of itself, 
and without a shock. Ossification of the heart 
was supposed to be the cause. He was suc 
ceeded on the Supreme Bench by Peter V. 
Daniel, Esq., of the same State, also appointed 
by Mr. Van Buren one in the first, the other 
in the last days of his administration. 

A beautiful instance in Mr. Barbour of self- 
denial, and of fidelity to party and to personal 
friendship, and regard for honor and decorum, 
occurred while he was a member of the House. 
Mr. Randolph was in the Senate : the time for 
his re-election came round : he had some per 
sonal enemies in his own party, who, joined to 
the whig party, could defeat him : and it was a 
high object with the administration at Wash 
ington (that of Mr. Adams), to have him de 



feated. The disaffected and the opposition com 
bined together, counted their numbers, ascer 
tained their strength, and saw that they coulc 
dispose of the electio